- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- John Carr will place the phone call at some point during the week. It starts calmly then escalates into something more.
The father is calling to get the son upset. To motivate him. To promote the man his son will meet that week.
It's helped Brandon Carr rise to a fantastic start. According to Stats LLC., Carr has been beaten just 44 percent of the time in 2013 and he's got two interceptions with seven pass breakups.
Carr is turning into what the Cowboys dreamed of when the sides agreed to a $50.1 million free agent contract signed last season: A shutdown corner.
Now every cornerback gets beat in the NFL, it happens. But for the first time in a while, quarterbacks aren't targeting one side of the field when going up against the Cowboys.
Credit John Carr.
"He hasn’t called me yet about this one," Brandon Carr said. "I’ll probably talk to him. He’s my basketball coach for my whole entire life, my AAU basketball coach. He knows what makes me tick. He knows how to get under my skin. He knows how to pump up the opposing receiver in a way that I don’t like it. He gives them too much attention on the phone and we’ll have it out. He knows how to get under my skin and kind of get my juices flowing and get me ready for the game."
This week Carr faces his toughest challenge of the season when he faces Calvin Johnson at the Detroit Lions. It's Johnson's ability to make plays from different spots on the field and against all sorts of coverages that challenges defenses.
Carr's season against these elite receivers has possibly given defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin the confidence to continue the trend on Sunday.
"You don’t necessarily make those decisions," Kiffin said. "We may and we may not. But he’s having a heck of a year. He’s doing a great job. He really is. He works extremely hard in practice. It just doesn’t come easy. You have to work at what you do and he’s worked from Day 1 when we got here way back. He played a lot of this technique that he’s really good at."
Carr said he's playing with more confidence than he had last season. It wasn't as if Carr played poorly, but in 2013 you're seeing a much better player. He's doing a nice job of directing receivers into deep help and when it's just one-on-one with no safety, Carr turns his hips and uses his speed to remain close to the receiver.
He's got Johnson now, a 6-foot-5 236-pound receiver, who fellow corner Orlando Scandrick called a "machine" for how he plays.
"It's not about me but at the same time we are all presented with an individual challenge," Carr said. "It's up to us to execute this week. It's no different than the past few weeks, big challenge, big task ahead of me, that's what you play the game for. You play for these big games against these elite receivers. Against the big names you get to go out there and show your ability."
Johnson places cornerbacks and safeties under siege on game days. John Carr does it for his son during the week, reminding him who he'll play.
"I enjoy it," said Carr, who is from nearby Flint, Mich. "This one is more special. He is the best receiver in the league. For my coaches to have confidence to allow me to go out there and challenge for 60 minutes, it gives me confidence. Now it's time to go play and time to have fun. What I learned this week (is) I'm going to go out there and battle for 60 minutes with him."