Last week, as the Miami Dolphins beat the Cincinnati Bengals, the team started third year cornerback Nolan Carroll, just his fifth start in the NFL. Despite reservations from fans, Carroll stepped up his play and had a solid game. The Dolphins were able to hold the Bengals to just 5.1 yards per attempt on the day, with Carroll a key part of the Miami success, holding Armon Binns to just four catches for 41 yards.
While the Miami secondary is still the weakness of the defense, the development of Carroll, who played wide receiver in college before he finally convinced his coach to transition him to defense, bodes well for the team.
"If he looks scared, I'm going to attack him," Dolphins wide receiver Davone Bess told the Pam Beach Post's Brian Biggane on Thursday. "If he's serious, I know he's going to come with it. That's what I'm seeing now from Nolan."
It's that confidence from Carroll, the son of Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, that the Dolphins have be waiting to see since taking him in the fifth round back in 2010.
"He made a nice contribution to the victory and played well," head coach Joe Philbin said during his press conference Thursday morning. "Hopefully, he can follow that up and display some consistency and keep improving. That'll be great."
Carroll, who joined the Dolphins with just six starts in college at cornerback, told Briggane that fellow cornerback Sean Smith and Bess were his two best mentors since he was drafted.
"Sean really took me under his wing, and that helped me greatly in my transition," Carroll said. "I could relate to him because he had been in my position the year before.
"It was rough my rookie year going against Davone," he continued. "He kind of shook me up. I wasn't used to going against a guy like that."
Carroll will continue his development today when he gets his sixth NFL start. With the way the Dolphins defense has been able to shut down opposing running attacks this season, and the shutdown ability that has developed with Smith, Carroll could be the key to a successful game against the Rams. More importantly, however, is how will Carroll develop over the rest of this season, and what kind of player will he be? Will he become a starting caliber corner? Or, could be be a quality nickelback for the Dolphins? It all depends on how well he can learn from this chance to be a starting cornerback.
"A lot of guys have been at it for a while compared to me, so every day is a learning process," Carroll told Biggane. "I embrace it, because every day you learn something new about the position, and that ultimately makes you better."
[Hat tip to Strange]