Switch to safety best for Carroll

Third-year defensive back can better utilize his talents

The Packers have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent cornerback Charles Woodson, who is expected to start next season opposite Al Harris. This, of course, means that Ahmad Carroll will lose his starting job, continuing the tumultuous saga of the former 2004 first-round pick of the Packers.

So with Woodson in the fold, what is next for Carroll? Is he all but done with the Packers? Maybe not quite yet.

With the team's first mini-camp under new head coach Mike McCarthy scheduled for next week, now is the perfect time to consider Carroll for a new role - not as a nickel or backup defensive back, but rather as a safety and primary kick returner.

McCarthy and the Packers have nothing to lose by moving Carroll to safety if they make the change next week. They will get a chance to see how he functions and can transition as the team heads into training camp. A position switch is just what Carroll needs.

A year ago, defensive backs coach Lionel Washington was questioned about whether a switch to safety for Carroll was an option. At the time, Carroll was coming off a poor opening-game performance against the Lions. Washington did not seem too open to the idea, though, and thought Carroll was better suited for cornerback.

"I think he has to develop more confidence in what he is doing," said Washington.

Carroll never did seem to gain much confidence last season, however. He was still not able to blend his athletic ability and aggressiveness with technique, even after two years of coaching at the NFL level. For every good play he made, untimely and repeated penalties continued to be a problem.

Besides being one of the fastest players on the Packers' roster, aggressiveness is Carroll's best attribute. That mentality would serve him well as a safety, where until last year with the addition of Nick Collins, the Packers had been lacking an intimidator.

Furthermore, Carroll would not be in a position to hold and grab so much as a safety because he would not be asked to cover receivers one-on-one on a consistent basis. In more read-and-react situations, he would be able to cover ground and close with his speed. Plus, his tackling has always been one of his strengths, which would make up for his lack of size as a safety in run support. By comparison, Carroll is just one inch and 10 pounds lighter than Collins.

With the addition of free agent Marquand Manuel from the Seahawks this off-season and second-year player Marviel Underwood in the mix, Carroll would have a difficult time cracking the starting lineup as a safety for next season, but could be a valuable contributor as a backup. A demotion to the nickel back position will not do him much good if he cannot correct the mistakes he was making as a starting cornerback. They would still be exposed.

In a dual role as a kick returner last year, Carroll showed some flair and was fearless hitting the wedge. His approach was full-steam ahead which is what most good kick returners exhibit.

The Packers are expected to have open competition for kick returning duties this off-season. At least eight different players took a crack at being the primary guy a year ago. Only Carroll, though, had some success and looked the part. That job should be his to lose this year. He led the Packers with 19 returns for 390 yards in 2005, and his 57-yard return at Baltimore was the team's longest of the season.

Signing Woodson was no doubt a vote of disapproval for Carroll, but the third-year defensive back can still be an asset if used properly, even if not at his intended position. Moving him to safety now and giving him the kick return job makes sense and will benefit him and the team down the road.

Matt Tevsh

Editor's note: Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com.

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