INDIANAPOLIS - Cornerback T.J. Carrie, signed this week by the Indianapolis Colts to a free agent deal after six seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns, today spoke with local reporters on a video conference call. What did he have to say about his fit in the Colts' defense, Kenny Moore II, his expanding role as a veteran leader and much more?
Here are the top takeaways from that conversation, which you can listen to in its entirety above:
» Carrie can line up both inside and outside at cornerback, but he prefers to make plays from the slot: In his six-year NFL career, Carrie has been able to carve out a solid career as a versatile cornerback, lining up all over the field and collecting 331 total tackles (12 for a loss) with five interceptions, 43 passes defensed, six forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, two sacks and five quarterback hits in 92 total games with 50 starts to his credit.
But asked Wednesday where he prefers to line up, Carrie said he loves making plays from the nickel position, mainly due to the fact that nickel corners are often afforded a little bit more flexibility in terms of the things they're asked to do.
"I would say inside, only because you get to blitz - there's other opportunities there for you playing in that inside position," Carrie said. "But I love playing outside as well. It's something that I pride myself on, being able to really have a unique craft in being able to do both in times of need. There have been times in games where I'm playing all outside, and then something happens (and) I've gotta go inside, or I'm playing all inside and I have to go outside. So it's definitely a unique situation where you have to hone your craft on both abilities."
Colts general manager Chris Ballard had mentioned earlier in the offseason that the team was looking for possibilities to fill in as the backup nickel cornerback, behind starter Kenny Moore II, and Carrie seems to be an ideal candidate to compete for that job. Carrie has averaged more than 350 snaps per season lined up in the slot over his six-year NFL career, including 326 snaps with the Browns last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
"I can say from the inside perspective you just get a little bit more opportunity to do more exotic things on the defensive field than outside," Carrie said. "So I would say (I prefer) that."
» Speaking of Moore II, Carrie is looking forward to the opportunity to learn from one of the top nickel corners in the league: Whether it's in coverage, knocking down and picking off passes, or in the second level being physical and making tackles, or even at the line of scrimmage outworking offensive linemen and getting to the quarterback, Moore II is one of the more dynamic slot corners the league has to offer.
In his three-year career, Moore II has collected 176 total tackles (10 for a loss) with six interceptions, 19 passes defensed, four sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery; only eight players have put up those kind of numbers in the NFL since 2017 (including Colts teammate Darius Leonard), and Moore II is the only cornerback on that list.
A student of the game, Carrie was clearly aware of Moore II's prowess before joining the Colts, and now that they're teammates, he wants to take advantage of the opportunity to see the game from Moore II's perspective.
"He's been able to do it (at) at really high level, and definitely somebody that has done it, proved himself to be able to do it, is considered a top-tier in that position," Carrie said of Moore II. "So it'll be interesting to learn some of the things that he does really well and see how we all can fit within the defense in terms of coaches always finding ways to get all of the guys that they can onto the field. So definitely he's done it (at) at high level and he's continuing to do it."
» Carrie definitely already grasps the way defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus wants his players to attack the football: Carrie got an early education from former Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams about the value of effort from all 11 players in a unit at a given time.
It's not like Carrie wasn't playing hard before; his eyes were just opened to the possibilities when everyone, even those on the backside, hustle to the ball.
"If we can give 100 percent every play, then irregardless of some of the mistakes that we make, (with) effort from everyone on that field, we'll be able to overcome that," Carrie said he learned. "It was a unique thing because most of the time, you know, I think that in this league defensive backs on the backside are not asked to do as much, but coming from a defensive coordinator (like) Coach Williams, who demanded effort from the backside corner or the backside nickel - just the backside players who were away from the play - he demanded effort. And I think that in my earlier career, yeah I gave effort, but in the sense where we're talking about this is the difference between being there for that missed tackle or being there for that tipped ball, the deflected ball."
Carrie said he's already well aware of Eberflus and his similar demands - in fact, Carrie said with a smile that Eberflus might even be 10 times as insistent about effort - and he's up for the challenge.
"It was something that I really try to hone in my craft in the sense where now I'm doing a lot more running in the instances where I can give 100 percent every play, down in and down out," he said. "It's definitely something that I know now will have to continuously be in my repertoire of things that I work on in the offseason."
» Carrie learned the value of leadership from guys like Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson early in his career, and wants to pass along those same lessons in Indy: Carrie said you often hear the phrase "be a professional" when talking about younger NFL players, but sometimes it can be hard to really define.
When he was going through the free agency process in the past few weeks, Carrie said it was important for him to, of course, find a destination that he could come in and compete for playing time, but he was also drawn to an organization in need of a veteran presence in the defensive backfield.
The Colts, Carrie said, seemed to be a perfect fit in that regard.
While the team has Moore II and also just signed All-Pro Xavier Rhodes in free agency, there are plenty of other young, talented guys at the position - like 2019 draft picks Rock Ya-Sin and Marvell Tell III - that could benefit from as many veteran minds as possible.
"We wanted to be in the best fit possible for us to still be able to have a chance to compete, and still mold and shape guys, seeing that this will be going into my seventh year," Carrie said. "So when we had the option to join the Colts, it was a great fit. And talking to J.G. (cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon), one of the coaches, he explained to me that, 'Man, look: there's opportunities for you to compete, and at the same time we're young, so your veteran leadership on and off the field is much needed from that standpoint.'
"I think that will definitely be beneficial for the group as a whole," Carrie said. "So I'm excited."