After impressing Dennis Allen all through off-season practices and training camps, TJ Carrie came into Friday's preseason opener against the Vikings with high expectations placed upon him. Expectations he didn't initially have when the Raiders chose in in the seventh round of the draft. Expectations he placed upon himself from day one.
"I think the goal for each and every day is to come out and have the expectation to stand out," Carrie said after his final practice before heading to Minnesota. "Within every drill, within every rep, never take a rep off because you never know if it might be your last rep, so I kind of take that approach each and every day at practice and it's been successful for me."
That approach has paid off for Carrie and it has developed those expectations from his coaches that his performance in practice will translate to the field on game day.
"I'm hoping that I'm going to see the same things that I've seen in practice," Dennis Allen said last week of Carrie. "I'm hoping that I'm going to continue to see him get his hands on the football and be productive for us. We're going to use him in a lot of different roles, he'll play inside the nickel, play some outside. He'll also go back and play some as a punt returner. He'll have multiple roles in a game and I feel confident that I'm going to see a lot of the same things that I've seen in practice."
The rookie corner didn't disappoint. He came into the came at the end of the Vikings' second drive and immediately made his presence felt. He had several run stops, a pass defended, and had tight coverage to force an incompletion. In short, he showed just was Dennis Allen wanted to see from him.
In a conference call the day following the game, Allen named Carrie as one of his standouts from the game among his young players.
Obviously, Carrie's performance and how he goes about earning his spot on this roster is the primary focus for him. But on Friday, that focus came with some extra motivation.
You see, Friday Carrie would be facing Teddy Bridgewater. The last time Carrie saw Bridgewater was when Carrie's Ohio team faced Bridgewater and Louisville to open last season. Bridgewater came into the game as a Heisman frontrunner and he was as advertised; throwing for 355 yards and five touchdowns as Louisville trounced Ohio 49-7. Needless to say, it is not a pleasant memory for Carrie.
"It was a tough ball game," said Carrie. "I didn't prepare myself well enough for that game. As a team we came out flat and kind of got overwhelmed early and from that point we kind of spiraled into a negative effect."
On Friday Carrie would get a rare second chance at Bridgewater. This time on a more level playing field. Though ulitmately the Raiders lost to the Vikings, it wasn't by Bridgewater's hand and it wasn't against Carrie and the Raiders' second team defense.
Carrie immediately made his presence known when on his first play in the game, he stuffed a run play for a short gain. Then on the next play, fellow seventh round rookie, Shelby Harris, got in the backfield to strip sack Bridgewater.
The Vikings' drive stopped right there when the Raiders' second team defense entered the game. Bridgewater had just five completions for 36 yards after that point despite playing the final drive of the first quarter, the entire second quarter, and a full drive in the third quarter. Carrie gave up just one catch for six yards. He did his job -- along with that of the rest of the defense -- to stop Bridgewater. That by his own definition offers a form of revenge.
"I think the biggest thing going into each game is making sure that you and your fellow teammates and your team are all on the same page of execution, and with execution, you get your some sort of revenge." Said Carrie.
While I doubt Carrie was losing much sleep at night thinking about that 2013 college season opener against Louisville, 'winning' this battle versus Bridgewater along with his first major battle in his fight for a spot on an NFL roster spot probably has him sleeping a bit better right about now.