TJ Carrie is making an impression in this Raiders training camp.
Going into his fourth NFL season, the seventh-round pick from 2014 is making a strong push to start at cornerback in 2017. He’s been solid since the start of training camp in Napa and is listed as No. 1 at one cornerback spot on the team’s first depth chart of the season.
On Wednesday, he finished off daily practice with a flourish, intercepting a Derek Carr pass and returning it for a touchdown. Veteran Sean Smith, last year’s starter, may yet win back his position, or this year’s top draft pick, Gareon Conley could shine, but for now Carrie has the inside track. Smith for now is playing a more diminished role and Conley remains out with an injury.
“Coach Del Rio lays it on the line and tells everyone exactly how it’s going to be,” Carrie told Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group after Wednesday’s practice. “If you have the expectation that there’s a chance, you should be able to work harder than the next guy and study harder than the next guy because you know that the fruits will pay off at the end of the day. He gives everyone an open battle.”
Carrie played in all 16 games in 2016 but started just three. He had one interception last season, along with 14 passses defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery while being in on 22 tackles. In 2015, he started 14 of 15 games.
Now, he’s making plays this summer and looking like he’s going to be hard to dislodge, even with Smith and Conley sure to pressure him.
Carr gave Carrie credit for his interception to end Wednesday’s practice.
“TJ made a great jump,” Carr told Durkin. “He read the play and he jumped it. As long as I’m going to the right place with the ball, I’ll be OK. If I’m making dumb decisions, then it will be bad.”
The Raiders will get their first chance to play against another team with their exhibition opener Saturday in Arizona against the Cardinals.