FLAGSTAFF – Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was talking about his starting nose tackle
That’s Carter, the Cards’ second sixth-round draft choice out of UCLA, who went from well below the radar to running second team nose tackle on a defense that will need solid play from the position.
“It just seems like when we have practice or any kind of situation,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said, “he shows up.”
To have Carter working behind Williams is a bit of a surprise. At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, he’s not the protypical nose guard size – “I noticed that too,” he said – and the day he was drafted, he expected to work as a defensive end in the Cards’ 3-4 alignment after playing nose tackle in college in a four-down linemen scheme.
He has been a nose tackle for the Cards, however, who certainly needed to find bodies to play there after Gabe Watson and Bryan Robinson did not return. With Williams battling to get into the condition coaches wanted, Carter has already seen some first-unit snaps while rotating with the former No. 1 pick.
“That’s what I came here for,” Carter said. “I’m not surprised. That’s what my goal was. I knew I’d be good. I just needed to work hard every day.”
Carter started just one season for the Bruins. But offseason work at API in Los Angeles was crucial to help him prepare for camp despite not being able to have an offseason with the Cardinals because of the lockout. A handful of ex-NFL players ran the training.
Carter said the help he got from one-time NFL defensive lineman Chris Maumalanga (who played for the Cardinals in 1995 and briefly in 1996) was important to his camp preparation. He also said that mentally, he thinks defensive line is the easiest spot to play, easing the transition.
Whisenhunt said Carter shows good quickness but also power, and noted Carter’s effort.
“As far as a young prospect – and where we drafted him – we are very excited about him so far,” Whisenhunt said.
Carter is just happy to be part of a rotation, necessary for any team on the defensive line but even more crucial at the nose. His size might not be completely nose-natural, so “I have to lean on my other strengths – speed, quickness, technique – those are my tools,” he said. “That’s why I am in the league.
“I wasn’t going to come in here and not be ready.”
Whisenhunt said it was nothing more than the Cards wanting to see Acho in a different spot.
“It’s a practice and we are just moving guys around and looking at them in different roles,” Whisenhunt said. “Last night was about changing the routine, putting guys in different situations and seeing how guys handle that. We had an opportunity with Joey getting the night off to shake things up and see what happened.”
Whisenhunt said Schofield and the other young linebackers are best evaluated in games, in large part because, for what they do as pass rushers, they can’t tackle live in practice. He did say he was “pleased” with Schofield’s work ethic, but – like many young players – must improve on knowing his assignments.
Schofield was particularly hurt by the lockout, since he didn’t get an offseason or training camp as a rookie because he was recovering from major knee surgery.
“At first, I didn’t,” Dockett acknowledged.
It’s not a surprise. In the Horton scheme, like the Steelers, the defense is linebacker-driven. The defensive linemen often are supposed to do things to free the linebackers to make plays, rather than have the freedom to make the play themselves. For someone like Dockett, that obviously got his attention.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about me, it’s about the team,” Dockett said. “Whatever I do to have to go in there and hold some guys up, two-gap, it don’t even matter. As long as we get wins and we get our (NFC West) title back, that’s the only thing I care about. If I got to do it I got to do it.”