In their 2010 season opener at Fresno State, the UC Bearcats were simply unable to protect Zach Collaros. The UC quarterback was sacked eight times, including three times by one of the Bulldogs defensive ends.
His name was Chris Carter.
Five years later, Carter’s pass rushing skills are the biggest reason why he’s staging a strong bid to make the Bengals 53-man roster as a hybrid linebacker/rush end.
“I had some really crazy coaches when it came to pass rushing back in high school and college,” Carter told me. “It was all about repetition. Don’t get tired. Wear them out with your speed. And then wear them out again, and again, and again. Eventually they’re going to get tired and before you know it, you’ve got a sack.
“That’s a skill that I’m really trying to capitalize on, but at the same time, I have to keep throwing other things in there as well – playing in space, playing linebacker, and that’s something I’ve been improving on as well.”
The 26-year-old leads the Bengals in the preseason with 2.5 sacks, and would have had another in Saturday’s win over the Bears if not for a penalty in the secondary. Carter has also consistently flashed his speed rush off the edge throughout training camp.
“Any time you step on the practice field you want to make sure you get noticed by the coaches, scouts, and all of the staff,” said Carter. “I just come out here every day with my hard hat on ready to work.
“Fortunately, I’ve been able to come out and stack good days on top of good days. That’s the goal. To continue to be consistent with that and to show my worth on the practice field and in the games.”
“Chris Carter has done a nice job all training camp and this preseason,” said Marvin Lewis.
After recording 19.5 sacks and 38 tackles-for-loss in his four seasons at Fresno State, Carter was drafted by the Steelers in the fifth round in 2011. After battling hamstring and abdomen injuries in his first two seasons, Carter appeared in 13 games for Pittsburgh in 2013 including a start at outside linebacker.
But last year, the Steelers waived Carter just before the start of the season. He was quickly picked up by the Colts and spent several weeks with Indianapolis before being waived again. The Bengals signed him in early December and Chris played in the final three games of the regular season and the Wild Card playoff loss.
“A lot of guys can get discouraged when you kind of become a journeyman,” Carter told me. “I spent three years with Pittsburgh, a short time with Indy, and hope that I’ve found a home here.
“I respected the Bengals when I was in Pittsburgh. I don’t think many Steelers will say that until they get out of the program, but when I was there, any time we talked about the Bengals there was a great amount of respect because we knew it was going to be a physical game. We knew that we were going to be hurting on the Monday and Tuesday after that game. So I was excited to come here and when a lot of the Steelers guys found out that I signed here, they were excited for me because they have a lot of respect for the coaches and players here.”
While playing for Dick LeBeau and Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, Carter says he learned an important lesson that he is keeping in mind during his strong preseason showing with Cincinnati.
“They told me, ‘One day you’re drinking wine and the next day you’re crushing grapes,’” said Carter. “So don’t ever get too high on yourself. Just stay humble, keep your nose to the grindstone, and your eyes to the sky and you’ll be alright.”
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