GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- Before injuries against Green Bay had forced Najee Goode, Allen Barbre and Patrick Chung into action, Roc Carmichael was already making the first spot start of his professional career.
With right cornerback Bradley Fletcher sidelined by a pectoral strain, the coaches could have started slot cornerback Brandon Boykin in Fletcher’s place and brought in Carmichael to play outside in nickel.
Instead, they showed enough confidence in Carmichael to give the second-year corner his first professional start, on the road, against the Packers at Lambeau Field.
“I was anxious, though,” he said after the Eagles' 27-13 victory. “I wanted to do so good. Everybody is seeing you play. I was going against [Packers wideout Jarrett] Boykin out there, another Virginia Tech guy. I knew me and him would be matched up against each other. I wanted to win that battle so we could talk trash to each other. So there was a lot going on, but as far as just playing football, I was just calm.”
Carmichael held up his end of the bargain, and the Eagles survived a rash of injuries that forced backups into prominent roles in the victory that evened the team’s record at 5-5 (see story).
The former Virginia Tech corner frequently drew his former college teammates of three years. Jarrett Boykin finished with eight receptions for 112 yards, but 36 came on an acrobatic catch along the sideline that probably would have been reversed if coach Chip Kelly had challenged the call.
Boykin’s foot appeared to be out of bounds as he came down with the ball. Aside from that, Boykin had just one more catch longer than 13 yards.
“When I was watching film, I’m like, ‘This guy didn’t change too much [from college],’” Carmichael said. “In the meetings I was telling my DBs, ‘He’s not a burner, but he can catch. He made some pretty good catches [Sunday], so I was like, that’s what he does.
"I knew that. I knew he couldn’t beat me over the top, so I was playing him underneath and I had a couple of knockdowns on him.”
Carmichael, a fourth-round pick of the Texans in 2011, didn’t play his rookie year and played in just six games for Houston last season. He opened the year on the Texans’ practice squad, but the Eagles were thin at corner at the start of the season and lured him away, mainly to contribute on special teams.
He had played just 11 total snaps on defense going into last Sunday’s game against the Raiders, when he played 20. With Fletcher limited at practice last week but hoping to start, Carmichael got himself ready to make his starting debut.
There were nerves, at first.
“The first two series, I’m trying to guess,” Carmichael said. “Like, ‘Is it a run play? Is it a pass play?’ I’m looking at the formations coming in. The first two series, I was playing it like I’ve seen it on film. But it didn’t play [out] like that. It’s a game. So after then I kind of settled down and found myself. I got into my own.”
After the most game action of his career, Carmichael discovered something about himself and his preparation, something he suspected but couldn’t confirm until he actually played an entire game.
“I’m starting to realize you can watch film as much as you want, but when you get out there, you just got to play,” he said. “I’m a guy that tries to perfect everything. I don't even feel comfortable with the call until I know what everybody is doing, which is a great attribute to have. But on Sunday, man, you’ve got to go out there and play ball. It’s football. That’s what I’m getting back to, just playing football.”
At one point, he said, he’ll be able to marry the two principles of playing educated and playing instinctively.
“Then you’ll be special,” he added. “That’s the next step for me. That’s the level I’m trying to reach.”