TJ Carrie didn’t come into the NFL as a heralded prospect, but as he approaches the start of his third Raiders training camp later this month he’s made the most of what he has.
The 6-foot, 206-pounder – who played both cornerback and safety in 2015 for the Raiders while also returning punts and kicks – goes into camp with the opportunity to play a number of roles for Jack Del Rio’s team.
But his leading role for the Raiders defense may be as the No. 3 cornerback facing opposing slot receivers. He and DJ Hayden are expected to be the leading contenders for the job, with Sean Smith and David Amerson already locked in as the outside corners.
Carrie, a seventh-round pick out of Ohio in 2014, showed coaches last season that he could be a difference-maker in the slot.
As Sports Illustrated noted recently, Carrie statistically was one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL in 2015. Sports Illustrated selected Carrie as the No. 8 slot corner in the league, having allowed 23 catches on 40 targets in 250 slot snaps in 2015.
Wrote Sports Illustrated: “Whatever the Raiders do with him, they shouldn’t deny his potential as an inside corner, especially since they have big things on the outside with Sean Smith and David Amerson. Carrie is a big guy … with 4.4 speed who uses angles and aggressiveness to get things done.”
The analytics website Pro Football Focus noted, too, that the threesome of Smith, Amerson and Carrie is solid going into 2016, and ranked the trio as the 12th best corner group in the league.
So far, Carrie has been a team-oriented player who has shown he’ll do whatever the Raiders need. He’s accepted every challenge the team has thrown his way, whether it’s playing outside corner, slot corner, safety or special teams. After a solid 2015 he’s eager to improve and make a contribution.
“It’s exciting, man,” he told a writer for the team’s website earlier this offseason. “You get to do some things you’re not comfortable with, you get out of your comfort zone, but the great ones are comfortable being uncomfortable, so seeing it, believing it, is something I’m willing to do.”