Unfortunately for New England, Carter was carted off the field during the Patriots’ 41-23 win over the Broncos on Sunday. And the prognosis isn’t good, since it looks like the defensive end’s season could be over due to a quad injury that will reportedly require surgery.
The void left by Carter will be a difficult one for Bill Belichick to fill, as the 32-year-old has been important to organization on and off the field.
Carter, who actually thought his career was over at one point last summer, has 10 sacks this season, making him the third player to record double-digit sacks during Belichick’s New England tenure. He’s also recorded 52 total tackles and two forced fumbles in what has been one of the former seventh overall pick’s better seasons. It’s safe to say that he’s been New England’s most consistent pass rusher this season, and his leadership ability is undeniable.
Considering the team’s defensive woes and the question marks surrounding the Pats’ defensive depth, everyone will need to elevate their game in Carter’s absence. However, there could be a few guys who really need to step up.
Mark Anderson has provided a stable pass-rushing presence off the edge thus far. His success has been overshadowed a bit by Carter’s, but the 28-year-old has been excellent in his first season in New England.
Anderson has racked up nine sacks to go along with 22 total tackles and two forced fumbles. On Sunday, he took down Tim Tebow twice, which included forcing a fumble that Anderson recovered himself. With Carter out, Anderson’s role could increase, making his continued success that much more important.
But defensive linemen aren’t the only players who will need to fill Carter’s void. Rob Ninkovich is one linebacker in particular who will need to continue to thrive. He’s chipped in 65 total tackles, 5.5 sacks and two interceptions this season — all career highs.
Then, there’s defensive captain Jerod Mayo. Mayo just inked a five-contract extension, but he’ll certainly need to earn it. The 25-year-old linebacker missed two games earlier this season because of an MCL injury, but he’s back and has immediately made an impact. In many ways, he’s the straw that stirs the drink.
The Patriots’ defense has been scrutinized a bit lately, but the unit has still done enough to help guide New England to an 11-3 start. Carter’s injury will certainly hurt, but the hope is that with a continued team effort, the Patriots can weather the storm.