The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Free agent CB Brandon Carr should be tops on Cowboys’ wish list

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Jonathan Bales

Last week, I started writing a post on why the Cowboys should lay off free agent cornerback Stanford Routt, but I never got around to finishing it due to my ongoing draft coverage. Routt’s numbers aren’t horrendous (51.1% completion percentage and 5.66 YPA against), but he committed a ridiculous 17 penalties last season.

Penalties don’t show up in the statistics at which most fans look, but Routt often finds himself out of position.  He substitutes costly penalties for passing yards.  Actually, if he add the penalty yards Routt allowed to his pass defense totals, his YPA jumps almost three yards! Only one other cornerback (Brandon Browner) committed double-digit penalties in 2011.

And 2011 isn’t an aberration.  Routt committed 10 penalties in 2010 and nine in 2009.  There’s nothing that would drive Cowboys fans (and by ‘Cowboys fans,’ I mean me) crazy like incessant pass interference calls.

It appears Routt will sign with a team located outside of Dallas today, so ‘Boys fans should rejoice.  One of the teams with whom Routt could sign in the coming hours is the Kansas City Chiefs.  The Chiefs will likely need to replace free agent Brandon Carr.  In my opinion, Carr is light years ahead of Routt.

Let’s start by addressing the fact that Carr is pretty poor against the run and, if he comes to Big D, fans will need to anticipate dealing with a few missed tackles.  It is going to happen.  His cover skills will make up for it.

In 2011, Carr was targeted 79 times, giving up just 39 completions (49.4% completion rate) for 511 yards (6.47 YPA).  Of cornerbacks who played more than half of their team’s snaps, the 61.7 passer rating Carr allowed was eighth-best in the NFL.  He yielded three touchdowns to Routt’s nine, and three penalties to Routt’s 17.

2011 wasn’t simply a fluke for Carr, either.  He allowed just 45.9% of the 111 passes his way to be completed in 2010, surrendering 7.15 YPA and a passer rating of 81.4.  The fifth-year player out of Grand Valley State is improving each season.

For Dallas, Carr is exactly the sort of player the defense needs.  In Rob Ryan’s blitz-happy scheme, the cornerbacks are forced to play a lot of man coverage.  Carr is 6’0” tall and excels in a press position, using his long arms to disrupt receivers at the line.  He’s versatile enough to play zone, and unlike Terence Newman, he has some ball skills.

The big question is how much money will Carr demand?  At 25 years of age, there figures to be a lot of interest in his services.  The Cowboys have a lot of money to spend this offseason, but with a variety of holes on the roster, it wouldn’t make sense to throw all of that cash into a single player.

The good news for the ‘Boys is that cornerbacks Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan, William Gay, Carlos Rogers, Aaron Ross, Marcus Trufant and Tracy Porter are all unrestricted free agents.  Most teams will have Grimes as their top cornerback, and he should command the most money.  The depth of the free agent pool at the position should lower Carr’s market value.

Unless other squads deem Carr’s value in the top tier of cornerbacks, the Cowboys should outbid the competition and bring the young, talented cornerback to Dallas.

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7 Responses to Free agent CB Brandon Carr should be tops on Cowboys’ wish list

  1. Greg says:

    I like Carr but I think there are some more powerful stats that demonstrate the play to play (or game to game) functioning level of a DB. First of all it has to be a cross-referential stat because a stat like interceptions or TDs allowed are both subject to a lot of circumstance and random speculation about culpability. But if you take a DB who has a high level of passes defensed and high levels of solo tackles, your goal for the two most important functions of a DB are achieved. Can he cover and does he tackle?

    Carr doesn’t tackle well; neither does Jenkins. Scandrick doesn’t seem to cover well. The defensive secondary is also a last line of defense once the inner layers of the DL and LB fail. Terence Newman demonstrated that his lack of tackling last year and range were weaknesses to the game and failed the team.

    The two stats combined show that the DB is around the ball a tremendous amount and is also hungry not to fail on the play. If you look at the CB who is an FA who combines both of those stats, it is Cowboy Killer, Eric Wright.

    http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?tabSeq=0&season=2011&seasonType=REG&d-447263-n=1&d-447263-o=2&d-447263-p=1&statisticCategory=INTERCEPTIONS&conference=null&d-447263-s=DEFENSIVE_PASSES_INT_DEFENSED

    Rather have him than anyone on the list.

  2. Rick says:

    A lot of teams probably view Carr as the top corner on the market.

  3. Jeremiah Thompson says:

    Yea I agree most teams will likely view him as the top free agent CB. Not sure how we have much of a chance this year with so many teams needing to spend lots of dollars to get up to the cap. Seems like he will cost at least as much as Nmandi last year.

    On the flip side we almost signed Nmandi last year with less cap space so maybe it’s possible we have the money to get Carr

    Keep those prospect draft articles coming :)

  4. Greg–Agree TDs are very fluky and subject to randomness, but I think the same can be said about passes defended. It isn’t to the same degree, but there is some variation there. Also, passes defended (and INTs) can be misleading in that the best CBs don’t get thrown at as often, necessarily limiting their production. Tackles can also vary based on scheme. I think both stats are better served to evaluate talent within a team, not between cornerbacks on different squads.

  5. Greg says:

    JB – I have the same issue of scheme and circumstance with any of the defensive stats you mentioned in your article. But here is the thing, even if a CB is targeted quite a bit (because he is a weak link) but still he is in the top 10 in passes defensed and of the top pass defenders in the league he has the most solo tackles, you know what you are getting. Assisted tackles are absurd. Dat Nuygen used to jam his splinted and casted paw into a pile-up and get an assisted tackle stat. These are solo tackles which are a big deal, especially when Terence Newman and Jenkins have a tough time with any part of the mechanics of fundamental tackling.

    I work with intellectual and functional skill evaluations and there is a measure called the Vineland II for adaptive skills. The premise of the tool is to list what a child or adult can do every day all the time. This is important because a great deal of evaluations are based on probabilities such as “under what circumstances”, “comparing to the mean”, “standard deviations”, and of course, IQ (of various types). But to know that a CB defends passes for its team (top 10 in the NFL) and at the same time leads all of its secondary and most NFL CBs in solo tackles (except Jason McCourty, Richard Marshall, Charles Tillman, and Ronde Barber), tells you exactly what the CB does on a regular basis.

    Functional skill.

    Really doesn’t matter the scheme or how much the team was on offense, controlled the clock or forced a pass-happy offense to attack. You know that this DB has demonstrated the most important functional skills simultaneously…and it just so happens that Dallas has a high demand for a DB with the combination of both of those skills. IMO

  6. Vince_Grey says:

    Wasn’t Carr the guy Miles toasted for all those yards (Well over 200) a few years ago?

    If so, okay, one game does not a career make, but having not one, but TWO bad tackling corners doesn’t wow me at all to say the least and here’s why:

    In today’s NFL, against all but the very best corners, receivers are going to catch the ball most of the time, and so it’s paramount to limit their YAC. A poor tackling CB won’t do that of course, and so for every pass he breaks up, there’s a 7 yard slant that goes for 20 because he missed the tackle.

    I have no desire to see both our CB’s play “See the guy run with the ball `cause I blew the tackle”. And, Scandrick’s no great tackler himself. AND, our safeties won’t ever be mistaken for Ronnie Lott or Polamalu as great tacklers.

    So basically, signing this guy would mean we’d have a secondary made of 2 really, really crappy tacklers, two other guys who are average at best (Scandrick, Elam) and one who’s above average but not where near great (Sensabaugh). Even if Church takes a regular spot, I have yet to see him as a great tackler.

  7. Greg says:

    VG – completely agree. Current Dallas CB Mike Jenkins is a great example of seeming to have all of the right qualities but how he actually performs in tackling, attacking the ball, and being a last line of defense drops his stock. Jon Gruden said before the draft that Jenkins had the abilities to play as well as anyone. But Jenkins really only plays a mediocre role in coverage and a very pusillanimous showing in the physical aspect of the DB game. I think there is a reason that he is “injured” quite a bit and it has to do with how passive his game is. Walter Payton always demonstrated that on every collision, you either hit or be hit. Jenkins gets hit even when he is supposed to be in the tackler role.
    The Dallas secondary has to be strong physical presence (and efficient solo tacklers) because the physical presence is one of the only deterrents left that the CBs have. Vince was right that the WR will get open and probably will get the ball, but the defense needs to make a pounding and deterministic statement that makes the opposing WRs think very carefully what will happen when they catch. I can think of a few Victor Cruz (against different teams) plays where sloppy tackling led to huge gains. Ahmad Bradshaw makes a living out of gaining yards from indecisive tackling. As much as SS Roy Williams was not a football intellect, he created palpable concern among opposing offenses to take notice of where he was. Terrell Owens made that point when he was on the Eagles that he checked to see where Roy was.

    I don’t think anyone worries about where Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman, Scandrick, or Alan Ball are during collisions…well, except for Jenkins, Newman, Scandrick and Ball.

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