Carroll stars in first start

Two weeks. All it took was two weeks for <!--Default For Green Bay Packers is to ignore-->Green Bay Packers first-round pick <!--Default NodeId For Ahmad Carroll is 1267408,2004--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:1267408]>Ahmad Carroll</A> to go from the outhouse to the penthouse, and maybe more importantly into the opening-day starting lineup. <p>

Flags rained on Carroll during the first two preseason games of the year, especially the second contest, against New Orleans. Carroll's play improved last week at Jacksonville, and on Friday he was a rare bright spot in an otherwise dismal 27-7 loss at Tennessee.

Carroll was given his first professional starting assignment Friday when Michael Hawthorne was ruled out after straining his back last week and not practicing in the days leading up to Friday's game.

Carroll certainly was up to the task. Thrown at repeatedly by league co-MVP Steve McNair, particularly in the second quarter, Carroll allowed only two receptions. The highlight came on the first play of the fourth, however, when he intercepted a pass thrown by Titans backup Billy Volek.

Carroll was playing bump-and-run coverage against Titans receiver Tramon Douglas. Carroll jammed Douglas at the line of scrimmage, then covered him stride for stride, using the sideline as an extra defender. The knock on Carroll coming out of college was his height, but his 5-foot-10 frame was hardly a problem as he leapt with Douglas and came down with the ball.

McNair kept Carroll busy in the second quarter, throwing his way five times over two possessions. On the first, Carroll missed the jam and allowed receiver Eddie Berlin to break open across the middle. A good pass rush, however, forced McNair to throw slightly behind Berlin, and Carroll flashed his sprinter's speed by breaking up the pass. Carroll got the jam on the next play and wound up breaking up that pass.

On the next drive, McNair lofted a pass over Carroll's head for an 11-yard gain to Berlin. The next pass went to standout Derrick Mason for 6 yards. Carroll was on the scene on third down, however, to prevent a hookup with Darrell Hill.

For the night, Carroll finished with two tackles and three passes defensed. To be sure, Carroll wasn't covering the cream of the crop of NFL receivers. Starter Drew Bennett did not play, nor did No. 3 receiver Tyrone Calico. The man Carroll covered for most of the night, Berlin, is Tennessee's fourth receiver.

Nonetheless, now the question is whether Packers coach Mike Sherman will start Carroll ahead of Hawthorne — who is replacing the holdout Mike McKenzie — when the regular season opens Monday night, Sept. 13, at NFC champion Carolina.

Sherman shed no light on the situation after the game.

"We're going to look at it this weekend and see where we are at that position. He certainly played well tonight," Sherman said. "We'll see. We'll evaluate that as we go into this weekend. I thought he did a nice job. He played the ball well down field and had that nice interception. Hopefully he will continue to get better."

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