Over the last few weeks, rookie Jalen Carter has been starting to really show why he was a top 10 draft pick.
The No. 9 overall pick in the draft has been getting more and more first-team reps and Carter is making the most of them. He’s been showing off the type of ability that made him such a dynamic player at Georgia and he has been more consistent with it.
The biggest area of improvement this summer? Carter didn’t hesitate to come up with an answer.
“My strength,” Carter said. “Just firing off the ball and using my strength first. Coming out of college, I was using a lot of finesse and all that. Now, I’m bringing it back to my strength and my power.”
It’s clear that Carter can beat offensive linemen in a few different ways but working with defensive line coach Tracy Rocker has helped as he tries to hone his craft. This is just one example of that maturation process.
Carter explained why going with strength first works for him.
“Because you use strength and then you surprise them with finesse,” he said. “And now they don’t know what’s coming next.”
Whose idea was it to lead with strength?
“It was the coaches but it was also mine,” Carter said. “I’m out there, I gotta do the moves and stuff. Everything the coaches are telling me to do, I’m agreeing with it and it’s working for me.”
Carter played just two snaps in his NFL preseason debut in the first game against the Ravens and then he played just seven snaps against the Browns on Thursday night. The Eagles don’t need to see much of Carter in the preseason games because they’re seeing enough from him during practices.
And last week, when the Browns were in town for two joint practices, Carter brought his A game. On one rep, he even bowled over five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio to the point where many folks wondered if Bitonio might have tripped.
No way Carter just put an All-Pro on the seat of his pants a few weeks into his rookie training camp, right?
Carter, 22, coyly tried to play off the impressive rep against a perennial Pro Bowler.
“It was a good rush from both of us,” Carter said. “He happened to fall and things happen in football. He just got back up and he played the next down.”
It’s really hard for rookie defensive tackles to enter the NFL and be impact players from Day 1. There’s a reason the last defensive tackle to win Defensive Rookie of the Year was Aaron Donald back in 2014. Earlier this training camp, Carter announced that winning that award is one of his goals.
It’s not out of the question.
We have seen special flashes from Carter all summer. The next step for him is to be that flash player more consistently.
“I just think he keeps growing and taking steady, incremental steps to keep growing and developing as a player and as a person,” defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “Coach Rocker is doing a tremendous job developing that way. We’re continuing to stay on him with the details. He knows that he’s got to keep refining those. I think he’s taking ownership of that and he’s growing.”
The coaches have been very measured in their praise of Carter this summer and that makes sense. They know the struggles that rookies face in the NFL and they want Carter to continue his development as a pro.
Carter’s teammates have been much less measured with that praise.
If you ask a bunch of Carter’s veteran teammates, they’ll rave about him and the flashes they see at camp.
“I had to try to block him twice today and it wasn’t easy,” tight end Dallas Goedert said. “I don’t even know if you could consider it blocking. He’s a special player, a special talent.
“Man, I held on for like a half a second and I was out of there. I was like, ‘I don’t know how they do it, man.’ He’s a problem. I’m excited he’s on my team though.”