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Thursday, August 16, 2012
Brandon Carr is quick on his feet

By Todd Archer
ESPNDallas.com

OXNARD, Calif. -- It all starts with Brandon Carr's feet.

Look at him at the line of scrimmage, leaning forward on the balls of his feet, staring into the wide receiver's midsection. When the receiver moves, he moves. The receiver moves left, Carr shuffles right, but not without shoving his right arm into his opponent's jersey numbers to slow down any progress.

Brandon Carr
Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr knows he has his work cut out for him in the NFC East but says he's up for the challenge.

"It's like basketball," Carr said. "You've got to be in front of the player and use your feet first, then the hands follow. People think being a press corner is just being physical up top, trying to dominate the receiver. You've got to be smart and use your feet first."

Press corner has been a term thrown around Cowboys' training camp the way Jerry Jones threw millions at a stadium in Arlington about to open its fourth season.

The Cowboys signed Carr to a five-year, $50.1 million deal as a free agent from Kansas City in March because of his ability to press. At 6 feet, 210 pounds, he has the perfect build to be a press corner: long arms, good strength and the ability to get a receiver off the spot.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan doesn't want corners to play soft. How many times did you wonder why Terence Newman played so far off the line of scrimmage? Ryan wants them at the line most of the time, in the receiver's face, willing to fight.

With Carr and first-round pick Morris Claiborne, Ryan has more of the corners he wants. When healthy, he has a third in Mike Jenkins, who also plays best in press coverage.

"You've got to strike in the middle of the bow," Carr said, "but it's footwork, then the hands are second. You don't always have to get a good jam on a person with your hands. You can always get yourself in position with your body and with your feet and that can be just as good as a good jam."

The receivers have noticed.

"You better have your moves ready and definitely get a bench press or two in that day because he's quite the strong guy," Kevin Ogletree said.

Press corners have to have the mental makeup to succeed, as well. Some almost look down at Cover 2 corners because they believe playing off the line of scrimmage is a sign of weakness.

"I don't know what makes them, because if I did I'd make one every year," secondary coach Jerome Henderson said of press corners. "I'd make four of them every year and just throw them out there. I know from my experience, press corners are usually very confident -- extremely confident -- because it takes a lot of confidence to go down there and know, 'I've got this guy by myself and I still have to go down there and play with good technique and discipline, and I'm not afraid.' They usually challenge a lot. They're not afraid to be in that position."

Carr names Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey and Nnamdi Asomugha as the best press corners in the game today, but showed his confidence when answering the question.

"Why can't I name myself?" he said with a smile.

Press corners can make quarterbacks excited at times because they know the coverage. Those with big arms believe they can fit a throw into the tiniest of spaces. But press corners can also get into the head of a quarterback -- or receiver.

Jason Garrett remembers many unsuccessful two-minute drills against Deion Sanders as Troy Aikman's backup in his playing days.

"The cornerback better be good enough to play press, because it's a great opportunity," Garrett said. "They leave you by yourself. If it's a good matchup there, the quarterback is salivating. If it's Deion Sanders, one of the elite guys, that press coverage is no picnic."

The Cowboys do not believe Carr will be a picnic either.

In a division with Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz with the New York Giants and Washington's Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, Carr knows he has to be ready.

"It's all a mind game out there," Carr said. "I know this year is going to be a big challenge going against some of the top receivers in the division and the whole NFL. I've got my work cut out for me, but I'm up for the challenge."