To assume the NFL stage might be too big for Carter, the No. 9 overall pick in April’s draft, or any of of the 6-foot-3, 314-pound defensive tackle’s former teammates at Georgia, the two-time reigning national champions at the college level, is usually greeted with a playful laugh.
“Oh nah, I wasn’t nervous,” Carter said after a 25-20 Eagles win at New England where the rookie generated eight pressures and one sack in his NFL debut. “I don’t really think I get nervous anymore. Football is what I’ve been doing my whole life and now that I’m at the biggest level I don’t think I should be. Some people do get nervous but I’m ready to make a play.
That was an understatement to the banged-up interior of the Patriots’ offensive line who watched Carter put on an Aaron Donald-like clinic on the pass rush. With Carter being the rookie and difference-makers Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat on the edge, New England felt it couldn’t double-team Carter much and the result was Mac Jones being sped up all afternoon.
Carter recorded his first official NFL sack with 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter as the Patriots were driving in the red zone with a potential opportunity to steal the game. The rookie grabbed Jones with one arm and showed off his strength by pulling an SEC rival on the ground.
“We had a call that we had run in. We executed the call and because of the pressure from the other guys, the quarterback stepped up in the pocket and happened to go right into my hands,” Carter explained. “It felt good.”
Two plays later the Pats failed to convert on fourth down and the Eagles went into victory formation.
“I’m not saying it’s my time, but it’s time for someone to make a play,” Carter said of the pivotal moment. “At that moment in the game, everybody is rushing trying to make a play for the win. Everybody is just trying to execute the plan.”
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Carter recorded six pressures on 32 pass rushes which is tied for the most a rookie defensive tackle has recorded in any game over the past five seasons. Pro Football Focus counted eight pressures on 34 opportunities. Either way, it was impressive and uncommon dominance for a rookie.
The Eagles and Carter next play on Thursday night at 8:15 p.m. when they host the Minnesota Vikings, another team with a poor interior offensive line, who figures to struggle against the rare rookie who is hitting the ground running.