You never know when your chance will come. This is the motto Bengals linebacker Chris Carter has seemingly employed for training camp this season. After four tumultuous seasons with three teams, Carter might finally have a grasp on employment stability in the NFL.
As it often happens in the NFL, injuries and other circumstances allow a player to get a chance to shine a bit more than when buried in a situation where reps are limited. And, Carter hasn't just been impressing in drills, he opened eyes during the Bengals' mock game on Saturday.
Paul Dehner, Jr. of The Cincinnati Enquirer made note of some comments that defensive coordinator Paul Guenther had regarding Carter.
"I told him in the meeting this morning he's got a chance. He's got some juice off the edge. You can never have enough of those guys. If he continues to play at this level, obviously we'll see in the preseason against some of the first-team tackles, but if he continues to improve he's got a chance."
Carter spent three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and another with the Indianapolis Colts before the Bengals snagged him up last year. Mostly a special teams guy to date, Carter only has amassed 19 tackles in those four years, including three with Cincinnati last season.
The "juice off the edge" is likely what drew the Steelers' 3-4 system to Carter in the first place. And, even though the Bengals don't really ask many of the same things of their linebackers, the team will take any effective rushers they can after finishing dead-last in the NFL in quarterback sacks last season.
Is Carter's rise to being one of Guenther's Training Camp favorites a causation of improvement five years into his career, or is he benefiting from other linebackers' misfortune? Vontaze Burfict is still rehabbing from the microfracture surgery performed on his knee and Rey Maualuga is being held out of practices, so he might be seeing more reps than he was previously accustomed to. The Bengals also might finally have a system for Carter to thrive in after four previous seasons with little to no production.
After playing college ball at Fresno State, Carter was drafted by Pittsburgh in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. Although he wasn't overly-imposing, he had decent size at 6'1", 248 pounds, and his skill set showed in his 4.58 40-yard dash.
If Carter makes the final roster, it will be because he has shown his worth as a pass-rusher and prowess as a fill-in linebacker, if needed. The team looked to bolster the group this offseason after so many injuries hit the linebacker corps in 2014. and Carter might end up being an upgrade to the group of backups.