T.J. Carrie should have been the Week 1 Starter


T.J. Carrie is once again thriving, proving he should have been the starter from Week 1.

In Week 12 against the Panthers, starting nickel cornerback D.J. Hayden went down with a hamstring injury midway through the 3rd quarter — and in came three-year pro T.J. Carrie to fill the void at the position.

Carrie struggled for the majority of the Panthers game, primarily because he was left on an island, and he was most notably burned by Ted Ginn Jr. for an 88-yard touchdown.

Although the Raiders did end up winning the game, there was much concern over the nickel cornerback position and whether Hayden’s absence would come back to bite the Raiders down the road.

Those naysayers have been silenced, with Carrie putting together the best two-game stretch of any Raiders cornerback this season.

The following week against the Bills, Carrie played very well, recording 1 pass defensed as well as shadowing Sammy Watkins for the majority of the game, limiting his production. According to Pro Football Focus, Carrie graded out as the highest Raiders defender with a grade of 84.4.

The Chiefs were up next, and although the Raiders pass defense gave up 264 passing yards, Carrie had arguably his best game as a professional. When the Raiders defense needed a stop to get themselves back into the game, Carrie came up big with an interception of Alex Smith, which put the Raiders in scoring position. Although the Raiders lost the game, PFF graded Carrie as the 2nd highest Raiders defender with a grade of 87.2.

With all of this being said, let’s go back to before the season even started. According to Sports Illustrated, Carrie came in as being ranked the 8th best slot corner in the NFL, yet was benched in favor of Hayden.

Why exactly was that? Was it because Hayden was a first-round pick in 2013 and Carrie was a seventh-round pick the following year? If you ask me, that had to have played a major role in the coaching staff’s decision to favor Hayden over Carrie.

It is completely understandable to try and get your first-round pick to workout for your team, but in the end, it really hurt the Raiders defense. While Hayden did make some major strides this year, he still was quite inconsistent and at times, unreliable.

We do not wish injury upon players, especially our own, but an injury to Hayden is what made it possible for Carrie to get on the field, and it has greatly benefited the Raiders secondary. From here and through the playoffs, I would fully expect Carrie to be a reliable cover guy and continue to make plays for the Raiders defense.

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