Raiders’ Carrie seeks place among top corners

NAPA — Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie was passed on by 32 NFL teams for six rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.

The Raiders decided that enough was enough, and snatched him with the fourth pick of the seventh round.

Ever since, Carrie has impressed coach Dennis Allen in a number of ways.

It’s just training camp, and Carrie has yet to suit up for even a preseason game. To think he’s a sure-fire stud is more than premature. Nonetheless, Allen says he likes what he’s seen:

“I think he’s more mature than maybe I would have known from a rookie DB coming in from Ohio. He’s got a better understanding of what we’re asking him to do and what the offense is trying to do to him. I think just instinctively, I’ve been very impressed with his knowledge of the game.”

After open heart surgery nearly put the kibosh on Carrie’s Ohio college career, it’s easy to imagine there being some uncertainty regarding the future.

But the 5-foot-11 corner climbed from Antioch, to De La Salle, to college, to the NFL combine, all the way to a team withering for talent.

Carrie’s maturity is clearly noticed, particularly when he talks about learning the game from safety Charles Woodson:

“Every day it’s a different question, trying to get different notes, trying to get a different perspective of the game. When you’re talking about a vet who’s been playing the game that long, he sees it in a different light than coming in as a rookie, or a fifth year player.”

Carrie’s nonchalant-ness is nonchalant. But his vibe is genuine, and it’s not shocking that he’s maintained a relationship with former De La Salle standout and current Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

It’s a relationship which Carrie credits to helping him transition into the NFL, and in with the Raiders.

And while it’s early in the NFL season — still more than a month away from Week 1 — when Allen compares you to Chris Harris Jr., it’s a good sign:

“I relate it back to a kid that we had when I was in Denver: Chris Harris. He was an undrafted free agent, nobody really knew anything about him, and then every day you go out there and you watch him practice and every day he’s making a play that kind of catches your eye.”

Allen added:

At first, you don’t really think a whole lot of it until Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six, and he continues to make plays. That’s really how TJ was.”

Harris began his career slowly, and during his third season with the Broncos in 2013, he finished in the top 10 of ProFootballFocus.com‘s cornerback rankings.

Defensive back is a big-time need for Oakland, who finished near the bottom in pass yards allowed in 2013, giving up seven touchdowns to Nick Foles — tying an NFL record — in one week. In another, the rival Kansas City Chiefs scored five aerial touchdowns and Jamaal Charles set his own record.

With all of that, and with the toughest schedule in the NFL, the Raiders had a big void in their secondary. And if Carrie can be anything close to what Harris has been for Denver, it’s certainly good news.

For now, Carrie’s main goal is still making the team:

“That part of making the team is trying to help the team in all ways possible. For me, I think I can be utilized on special teams, and on the inside (corner) position as well. But coming in knowing that I haven’t earned anything, and knowing that I have something to prove, is what keeps me motivated.”

Carrie led the MAC conference in punt return yards during his 2013 season at Ohio, so he’s already shown he can contribute on special teams. The key, though, is how much Carrie can develop as a defender.

Allen doesn’t often put guys on a pedestal. Sure, like most coaches, he’ll talk a guy up. He’ll get his guys’ back. Comparing Carrie to Harris, though?

That’s as big a compliment Allen has given since becoming the Raiders head coach in 2012.


Follow @SFBay and @JLeskiwNFL on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.