Nolan Carroll was watching when the NFL season opened in New York Wednesday night and the Dallas Cowboys found a reserve cornerback who was in the game playing for, well, another reserve who had started and was now injured.
Time after time the Cowboys worked the backup cornerback successfully.
It was as if he was wearing a target on his back.
"That's how it is in the NFL," Carroll said this week. "It's about mismatches.They knew [Michael] Coe was playing and they tried to go after Coe a little bit. Then Coe went down and the guy behind him probably didn't get a lot of work at practice. So they tried to go after him with different looks and different routes. You try to get a mismatch."
The situation caught Carroll's attention because last year that was him.
Early last season the Dolphins started Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. And when Davis left the opener in against New England, Carroll entered the game as the team's fourth cornerback behind Benny Sapp. The Patriots saw him and found him. Time after time after time.
"You got to keep fighting. it happened to me last year, early in the season -- against New England and pretty much the first three games just being thrown in there," Carroll said. "You don't take that many reps with the ones, you're just watching. And watching is a lot different than doing. You just got to keep fighting. Keep plugging. It's a learning experience, really. This is what not to do the next time.
"I would tell [the Giants player] keep your head up and keep fighting. It's a learning experience. This is your first go-round and so all you can do is continue to stay positive and work."
This season Carroll is no longer an inexperienced No. 4 cornerback for Miami. He's now the No. 3 cornerback and as such will get a lot of work Sunday and every Sunday for the Dolphins in nickel and dime situations.
But unlike last season when Carroll was clearly unprepared for the playing time, this year he feels better about his chances. Much better.
"I think I'm a lot better as far as my technique, my experience, everything," he said. "I felt last year I was more just kind of out there playing. I didn't know what was going on, knowing the situation or what the offense wants to do. This year I know what's going on. I know what's going to happen on certain down and distance. I know formations and situations -- what they like to run, what they like to do. I'm much more confident this year than I was last year."