Carter Is Coming Around

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 6, 2007; Page D01

The transition process wasn't as smooth as Washington Redskins defensive end Andre Carter figured it would be last season. Carter left behind everything familiar to him in the NFL after five seasons with San Francisco, and then started slowly while learning how the Redskins do things.

But after coaches pulled him aside in the middle of the season for an it's-time-to-turn-it-up pep talk, Carter eventually adjusted to his surroundings. His turnaround has continued through the first three games this season, with the pass-rush specialist again applying pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Carter is finally comfortable in Washington's defensive scheme, saying it makes sense to him now.

Andre Carter, left, forced the Giants' Eli Manning to fumble in the first quarter of a 24-17 loss Sept. 23. The Redskins recovered the ball for a touchdown.
Andre Carter, left, forced the Giants' Eli Manning to fumble in the first quarter of a 24-17 loss Sept. 23. The Redskins recovered the ball for a touchdown. (Preston Keres - The Post)

Of course, it's still too early to determine whether Washington's defensive unit has improved after struggling in 2006. And although Carter is tied for the team lead with two sacks, the Redskins, who lack depth at defensive end, need him to regain the double-digit sack form he had early in his career with the 49ers.

Beginning tomorrow against Detroit at FedEx Field, Washington plays games in 13 consecutive weeks until the end of the regular season. Questions will soon be answered about the defense, and Carter's performance could help to provide the difference in its success or failure.

"You can always do more, there's always room for improvement, so I'm never going to settle for my last performance," Carter said. "I'm never going to feel satisfied no matter what I did last week. Every week is always kind of like an adventure; you don't know what's going to happen.

"But what it all boils down to is that you're the one who wakes up every day and has to look in the mirror and say: 'Did I do my best? Did I give what it takes to be a professional? Did I give what it takes to be an athlete? Did I give what it takes to be a Redskin?' When I look in the mirror, I know I did."

In his disappointing start last season, Carter had only three sacks in his first 13 games. His sack in this season's opening victory over Miami gave him four in his past four games.

Carter also sacked New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and forced a fumble (the Redskins recovered the ball and scored a touchdown) in the first quarter of a 24-17 loss Sept. 23 at FedEx Field. Carter has graded out well after games, coaches said, and earned accolades in defensive line meetings for consistently pressuring opposing quarterbacks, forcing them to have to move and readjust before throwing the ball.

Given his effort and conditioning, Carter could be "inches away from a big game," one member of the staff said recently. At the very least, Carter is off to the type of start Coach Joe Gibbs and Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, hoped he would have in his second season.

"He's off to a real good start this year," Gibbs said. "From what I saw being around him last year, he gets better as the year goes because he's in such great condition; most guys will wear down. He's obviously more accustomed to what we're doing, and he and Gregg have a great relationship."

Carter, 28, was part of the 2006 free agent class that also included wide receiver Antwaan Randle El. Carter's father, Rubin, a longtime NFL defensive tackle, coached Washington's defensive line for two seasons (1999 and 2000), so he had a connection to the organization.

About $10 million in guaranteed money prompted Carter to end the free agent process. He arrived in Washington after a successful five-year career with the 49ers (he had 32 sacks, including a career-high 12 1/2 in 2002), figuring he'd make a seamless transition in his new workplace.

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