The Raiders’ secondary issues have seemed like the proverbial leaky dam these days. You work to fix one hole and another one springs up. With all the talk of fixing communication this offseason, now the discussion is back to fundamentals and basics -- something that shouldn’t need to be talked about with several veteran corners.
The longest tenured cornerback on the Raiders’ roster is TJ Carrie, who the team selected in the seventh round of the 2014 draft.
Entering his fourth NFL season, Carrie has been taking snaps with the first team ahead of Sean Smith, due to Smith’s poor play in training camp after a disappointing 2016 season.
In last week’s preseason game against the Rams, Carrie didn’t make the coaches feel too comfortable with him as a first team corner.
Carrie was downright atrocious, allowing catch after catch, many of which to rookie third round pick, Cooper Kupp.
Following the game, it was “eye violations” that drew head coach Jack Del Rio’s ire.
“It’s not a good thing,” Del Rio said. “It’s really simple, I mean, you don’t have your eyes where they belong and you’re playing man, if you’re playing man, or even in zone. If you’re not seeing what you need to see, makes it hard.”
He didn’t mention anyone by name, but it was pretty obvious who was the primary culprit. Most notably on the the Rams’ first touchdown in which Kupp was wide open from 23 yards out.
Carrie spoke Wednesday, and took threw himself on the sword.
“Eyes. Eye violation,” Carrie said, echoing Del Rio’s words. “That’s very key in this game is you gotta do your job. You have ten other players on the field with you that are all supposed to do a certain job and as for me I was supposed to do a certain job on the play and I felt like I let my teammates down on that particular play. And it showed.
“The critical mistakes like that, those are the things that we gotta work on. That’s something that we’ve been hitting on this week and throughout all corrections, making sure that our eyes are in the right place so that the next time we go out there... we’ll continue to get that same play and they’ll continue to challenge us and our eyes and our ability to play that coverage.”
“A lot of it was a little misdirection, but that’s what offenses do. That’s what they’re supposed to do, misdirection, get your eyes in the wrong place, and you look up and it’s a touchdown. Going into the season, those are things that we cannot have happen.”
That one play stands out above the rest, but, make no mistake, there were many other mistakes from Carrie.
In one half, he gave up 5 catches for 76 yards, converting three third downs, giving up the 23-yard touchdown and another catch that put the Rams in first and goal at the 2-yard-line.
Carrie didn’t skirt responsibility on those either, reiterating the mistakes he made with his eyes as well as leverage.
“My performance last game was poor, very poor as far as my eyes and leverage,” said Carrie. “So now coaches are really stressing that. Not that they should have to because it’s something that we’re supposed to do, but in that particular game and situation I was very poor with that.”
Carrie has had some extra responsibility with Sean Smith not performing up to his status as the team’s highest paid corner. After spending the last couple seasons working primarily out of the slot, he is now being asked to start on the outside and then move inside when Smith enters the game.
It’s hardly an excuse for Carrie’s performance. He did the same thing picking up the slack for DJ Hayden during his time with the team. But that doesn’t make those duties any easier.
For any corner, they are always a work in progress. Carrie said he’s gotten extra work this week with receivers in practice, noting that getting his hands on them at the line is crucial. That would help limit the quick passes as well as opposing team’s success in bunches and stacks, like the one that freed up Kupp for that big opening touchdown.
The season is just 18 days away. With top pick Gareon Conley still not back from his shin injury and Sean Smith not performing well, the Raiders will continue to lean on Carrie. It’s a responsibility for the former East Bay football star, but it’s also an opportunity as he heads into the final season of his rookie contract.