Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Andre Carter Could Make Imposing Pass-Rush Unit and Other Patriots Thoughts


Andre Carter, Chandler JonesFOXBORO, Mass. — It would not be wise to expect Andre Carter to play at the same level he exhibited in 2011 with the Patriots. But the veteran pass rusher could be a boost to an already decent pass rush in New England.

Carter was not a highly sought-out free agent when the Patriots picked him up in 2011. He was coming off a season with just 2 1/2 sacks in five starts with the Redskins as an outside linebacker in Washington’s 3-4 defense. He bounced back in 2011 with a 10-sack season before going down in Week 15 with a quadriceps injury.

Carter had another 2 1/2-sack season with the Raiders in 12 games in 2012. He went unsigned until New England gave him a shot on Wednesday, signing him to a contract. Carter won’t get as much playing time in 2013 as he did in 2011, but he can still help out on third downs as an edge rusher.

In this weeks’ “No-Huddle Offense” we’ll go through some of the ways the Patriots can use Carter in the team’s hybrid defense.

1. New England could use Carter in Michael Buchanan‘s current role as the third-down rusher. Buchanan has struggled a bit in that role and can’t be counted on in the run game. Carter is more of a balanced player who could contribute on passing and rushing downs. Chandler Jones would kick inside in that situation.

2. Carter could also kick inside and play as either the third-down defensive tackle or as a five-technique defensive end in the Patriots’ 3-4. He hasn’t spent much time in that role before, but neither had Jones before this season. The Patriots used Jones and two defensive tackles on the line in the 3-4 before Week 7. Against the Jets, the team used three interior players on the line (typically Joe Vellano, Marcus Forston and Chris Jones) with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich as outside linebackers and Dont’a Hightower and Brandon Spikes on the inside.

If Carter played on the line in the base 3-4, the team could either use Chandler Jones as the other defensive end or continue to stand him up at outside linebacker and have Chris Jones and Joe Vellano next to Carter on the line.

3. Carter could also be used in the base 3-4 or 4-3 as a defensive end or outside linebacker. In the 3-4, Chandler Jones, Chris Jones and Vellano would likely be on the line, and Ninkovich, Carter, Hightower and Spikes would be standing up. In the 4-3, Carter, Jones, Jones and Vellano would be on the line with Ninkovich, Hightower and Spikes at linebacker. That would decrease reps for Jamie Collins and Marcus Forston, who could still get work in more of a rotational role.

4. Collins played really well in the first quarter, but was removed from the base defense for Forston as the Jets started to run more. Collins was very impressive as an outside rusher, though. He displayed impressive power and speed off the edge. It was unfortunately he only got 17 snaps.

5. Kyle Arrington was sidelined midway through the second quarter. He’s played well inside and outside this season, so it was interesting to see Belichick remove Arrington so quickly after he struggled to cover Jeremy Kerley. It will be interesting to see whether Logan Ryan or Arrington plays as the third cornerback once Aqib Talib comes back.

6. I thought Hightower played well, though the general public doesn’t seem to think so. He struggled on three or four plays in coverage, but he was very good imitating Jerod Mayo against the run. Mayo might have struggled on the plays Hightower could not keep up in too.

7. It’s not evident by statistics, but the rookie receivers are absolutely improving every week. The Patriots could still acquire a veteran receiver via trade, but they certainly don’t need to. Emmanuel Sanders is a name to watch for trades.

8. The Patriots’ offensive line hasn’t been as strong as in years’ past, but they seem to be improving. One player who’s not playing on the same level as last year is center Ryan Wendell who was getting pushed aside by Muhammad Wilkerson on Sunday.

9. The Patriots obviously miss Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Tommy Kelly, but they were still very stout against the Jets’ run game. They allowed just 3.4 yards per carry on 52 rushes. It was impressive to see New England allow a long run of just 17 yards.

10. It’s incredible that the Jets are still running wildcat looks on offense. They weren’t successful when Josh Cribbs and Bilal Powell were getting direct snaps and there’s no fear they’re going to pass the ball. Why use the wildcat when Geno Smith is already a threat with his legs?

11. One more perplexing play came at the end of the first half. The Jets ran the ball with Tommy Bohanan rather than kneeling on it after the Patriots had to punt. There was no upside in running the ball with Bohanan and all downside. Hightower was obviously going for the strip on the play. Seriously, why run with your fullback just to waste the last 10 seconds?

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