Roc Carmichael gladly gave up his number 20 jersey when Ed Reed came to Houston because it was "the right thing to do." The Clinton, Maryland native says he grew up watching Reed play when he was playing middle school football, trying to emulate the five-time All-Pro safety's game-changing interceptions. Now wearing a number 22 jersey, Carmichael is turning heads with big plays in training camp. He attributes his noticeable improvement to what he has learned from veteran teammates Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson.
"The most important thing I would say is the film study and how much you can recognize formations and you prepare for down and distance," Carmichael said of his preparation. "That gives you an edge on defense because it's tough. We don't know where the receiver is running so the more you can recognize formations and things like that, the more plays you can make."
Now entering his third year, critics are expecting Carmichael to prove himself. A fourth-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech in 2011, Carmichael did not make his professional debut until November 22, 2012 in the Texans Thanksgiving Day win at Detroit. Carmichael's rookie season ended in the 2011 preseason when he was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. In 2012, he started the season on the Inactive list and missed the first ten games.
"For myself, coming into my third year, getting hurt my first year, I feel like this is kind of really my second year but I just had to mature in all situations from being the best in footwork drills or having the best one-on-one day to seven-on-seven. Everything." the 24-year old cornerback said. "I just felt like I've got to grow up."
Carmichael became crucial to the Texans secondary in 2012 when Johnathan Joseph was inactive for two games and when nickel corner Brice McCain was placed on injured reserve for the final month of the season. In the six games he played, Carmichael recorded five tackles, one pass defensed, and five special teams tackles. This season he hopes to also fill the role of Alan Ball, now with Jacksonville via free agency, and be a contributor on special teams under coordinator Joe Marciano.
"I think just as a whole with special teams, we have got stepping up to do,"said Carmichael. "Losing Alan Ball, he's a great special teams' guy. That's the spot I am trying to fill, myself and B-Harris (CB Brandon Harris) once again and I think we can do it coming from the gunners and the flyers locking up on the outside. It is kind of just like playing corner."
Now healthy, Carmichael has shined in training camp, matched up against receivers like first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins. Carmichael has been quick to hustle and break up passes, covering his receivers with a noticeable increase in speed and ball instincts. Defensive backs coach Vance Joseph's feedback to Carmichael has been positive. Even his childhood protégé, Reed, has taken notice of Carmichael in camp.
"Coach V.J. right now all he says is, 'You are hot right now, Roc. Just keep it going.' I know that's a lot coming from him because he's a tough guy, tough coach which we all love him for that. He's tough on us. That gives you a little edge to come out the next day and keep on pushing," Carmichael said Monday. " But it's more coming from the teammates. You've got guys like Ed Reed coming and saying, 'Good play.' That means a lot coming from a guy like that."