With their third-round pick, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Florida defensive lineman Zach Carter. Standing at 6’4” and 285 pounds, Carter has the versatility to play on the edge as well as the interior of the defensive line, which is something the Bengals value.
The team even mentioned Carter played at a higher weight during his time with the Gators, which bodes well for an extensive role in-between the tackles.
Let’s take a look at Carter’s film to see his strengths, areas he needs to improve, and what makes him a great fit for the Cincinnati defense.
Carter is #6, the second player in white from the top of the screen.
Carter is on the light side for an interior lineman, but his pass-rush game shows power as well as finesse.
In this clip, he attacks the B-gap vertically, putting pressure on the offensive guard. When the guard starts to turn into the gap, Carter clubs the blocker with his inside arm. This turns the blocker’s shoulders even further outside and opens up a pass-rush lane inside, in the A-gap. From there, he has a clear path to the quarterback.
Carter shows the physical tools that the Bengals look for in a defensive lineman, but sometimes he relies too much on these gifts. His lack of pass-rush technique is an issue that Carter will need to work on with defensive line coach Marion Hobby.
Carter is #17 in blue, the first orange helmet on the top of the screen.
In this clip, Carter has a nice burst off the line and tries to throw a club/rip move, but top-10 pick Evan Neal shuts it down. Neal is a top talent, but a big part of the reason Carter is initially unsuccessful is his lack of follow through on the rip. As Neal engages with him, Carter stops his rip and uses that hand to fight Neal. Carter should continue with the rip in order to get past the blocker. Once again, this is a correctable issue that can be fixed with good coaching and hard work.
Despite Neal stopping his first attempt, Carter keeps pursuing the pass-rush. He dips down so low that Neal loses his balance, which allows Carter to get to the passer for the sack.
Carter wins with toughness and tenacity, but if he can refine his pass-rush skills he’ll be even more successful, even against top talents like Neal.
Carter is #17 in orange, the defensive end at the bottom of the screen.
In this clip, he has a great initial strike on the offensive tackle that stands him up and opens up a pass-rush lane inside. Carter effectively uses a push/pull/swipe move, pulling the tackle’s inside shoulder forward, Carter swipes his outside arm over the tackle’s inside arm. This allows Carter to disengage to the inside and chase down the quarterback for the sack.
This is a great rep, which showcases Carter’s power. It also shows that he has the ability to use his hands effectively. Although, as mentioned above, he does not consistently do so.
Carter is #17 in blue. He is in the middle of the screen when the ball is snapped.
Of course, defensive linemen also need to be able to defend the run.
This is an excellent play by Carter where he shows off his athleticism as an edge defender. He defeats the reach block and works toward the sideline to contain the jet sweep, making the tackle for a loss.
This is a phenomenal play.
Carter is #6, the second player in blue from the right side of the screen.
Overall, his run defense needs some work, particularly when he is not the end man on the line of scrimmage.
In this clip, he gets driven to the inside, opening up a huge running lane. He needs to be able to hold his ground much better, or he is going to have a serious problem playing in the AFC North.
Carter fits into a mold that the Bengals favor. He will be best on the edge against the run and on the interior as a pass rusher. He will need to improve his strength and leverage to become a stronger run-defender and develop his pass-rush moves to improve against the pass.
Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has demonstrated an excellent ability to put players in the best position to succeed, and the defensive staff on a hole has been proven that they can develop players with perceived weaknesses.
Carter will be an interesting moving piece for this defensive front, who could play a key rotational role as a rookie. While he works to improve his pass-rush technique, expect Anarumo to put him on the move, making the most of his quickness by letting him shoot gaps.