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Zach Carter bulking as he eyes a breakout year with the Bengals

Carter played in every game as a rookie for Cincinnati.

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Cincinnati Bengals v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

There are many reasons to be excited about what the 2023 Cincinnati Bengals can accomplish, but one under-the-radar storyline is the development of defensive tackle Zachary Carter.

A third-round pick by way of the Florida Gators in the 2022 NFL Draft, Carter finished Year 1 in the pros with 23 total tackles, one tackle for loss, one QB hit, and a half sack in the regular season while playing mostly as a three-technique. He registered eight more tackles in the NFL Playoffs.

Now that he’s had his first full NFL offseason, Carter is bulking up in hopes of having a breakout year in a Bengals defense that should challenge to be a top-five unit.

Paul Dehner of The Athletic recently wrote about Carter’s progress in the weight room and how he’s now topping 300 pounds after playing most of his rookie year in the 290s.

The other development comes in the body reshaping of 2022 third-round pick Zach Carter. He’s put on 20 pounds of muscle to grow to 310 pounds with dedication and tenacity now understanding his role playing inside at 3-technique, backing up B.J. Hill.

He admitted mentally the game was a struggle for him at times as a rookie, not knowing where he would play, undersized to move inside at 290 and needing to learn the nuances of a position he didn’t play all that much at Florida.

While Carter didn’t do much in the box score last season, he still appeared in all 19 games (playoffs included) while making 11 starts. He also quietly had a solid finish to the season after going through the normal rookie growing pains.

According to Pro Football Focus, Carter had grades below 50.0 in 10 of his first 12 games, then had grades above that mark in six of his final seven games. He actually finished the Bengals’ three-game playoff run with a respectable 60.0 mark compared to his 32.1 grade for the regular season.

A big part of those struggles can be attributed to Carter simply getting used to playing more on the interior of the defensive line after playing on the edge a lot at Florida. Some viewed him as a big defensive end coming into the pros.

However, the Bengals are banking on him becoming an interior pass-rusher, not unlike what B.J. Hill has been, though Carter still occasionally got snaps at defensive end in Year 1.

Be sure to read Paul Dehner’s entire article at The Athletic.

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