BucsBlitz.com continues its "Scout Analysis" series on the Buccaneers' free-agent signings with a look at defensive end/tackle Kevin Carter. First, experts from the Miami Dolphins and the Tennessee Titans provide their analysis from Carter's time with those teams. Then Buccaneers expert Matthew Postins provides his own analysis on Carter's place in Tampa Bay.
Alain Poupart, Scout.com's Dolphins expert (dolphindigest.com)
Numbers alone don't reflect the kind of work done by Dolphins defensive linemen the last two years because the position involved a lot of dirty work in the 3-4 scheme, work that -- among other things -- enabled Jason Taylor to create tons of havoc. That said, Carter made few plays of impact last season when his performance slid from his first season with the Dolphins in 2005.
Carter is a solid, if unspectacular, defensive end at this stage of his career and he's someone who can nicely round out a defensive line. He is consistent, doesn't make many mental mistakes and always shows up on Sunday, as evidenced by his amazing streak of never having missed a single game in his NFL career.
The Dolphins actually would have been happy to have Carter back in 2007, but they wanted him to restructure his contract (read, take a pay cut) and he would have none of it.
Carter pointed out after his departure from Miami that's he better suited for a 4-3 defense, and he very likely has a point there. But he's not getting any younger, and it's possible that he just can't be a difference-maker anymore.
Stan Jones, Scout.com's Titans expert (titansinsiders.com)
One of his upsides in the defensive line is that he can play at tackle or at end, as he did here in Tennessee (2001-04). He is a very solid and steady player who has solid pass rushing skills but still has the girth to be a run stopper, or move down to tackle when it is needed. He's a consummate team player and a great member of the community. Not only would the Dolphins have liked to have had him back, so would the Titans. He's a great player in the locker room and has a great work ethic in preparing for games.
Matthew Postins, Scout.com's Buccaneers expert (bucsblitz.com)
Carter's signing by the Bucs in early March seemed a little out of left field to some observers. While listed among the Top 10 defensive ends in free agency, Carter is also 34 years old and certainly in the waning portions of his career. He didn't seem to fit into the "younger" philosophy the Bucs are trying to espouse on defense.
What made it stranger was that the Buccaneers already had a player of Carter's build under contract (Greg Spires). Certainly Carter's career numbers are much better (97.5 sacks to Spires' 37.5).
So where the heck is this guy going to play?
It appears that Stan's observation about Carter's ability to play end and tackle is what the Buccaneers are banking on in 2007. Carter was a tremendous pass rusher as an end in St. Louis from 1995-2000 (he had 62.5 sacks during those six years, including a career-high 17 in 1999). But his numbers declined in Tennessee during his final two seasons with the Titans as he split time between tackle and end. During that time, though, the Titans had the league's No. 1 run defense in 2003 (80.9 yards per game). Tampa Bay ranked No. 17 against the run in 2006.
Putting Carter at under tackle, a position he's worked at during mini-camp has its advantages. Scouts still say he has first-step quickness and still has a closing burst to get to the quarterback. He is also, scouts say, good at avoiding contact and locating the ball. Their one quibble is that he lacks strength at the point of attack, which could come into play more against guards than centers.
Using him at under tackle would represent a departure from previous under tackles Anthony McFarland and Ellis Wyms, both of whom were space-eaters who weren't adept at putting pressure on the quarterback from that position. Carter has done that as an end and a tackle, and while he's taller and leaner than McFarland (6-foot, 300 pounds) and Wyms (6-3, 290), the 6-6, 305-pound Carter has proven he can handle run duties, too.
Tampa Bay is intent on putting pressure on the quarterback this season, and they admittedly got little of that from its under tackles last season. Frankly, the Bucs have gotten little inside pressure since Warren Sapp departed after the 2003 season.
Carter's proven ability to stop the run and rush the passer from both the end and tackle position makes him the likely candidate to be the starting under tackle. Age, I think, will have little to do with his play because the Cover 2 scheme the Bucs employ is a one-gap scheme.
Carter's role will be clear — cover his gap, hold up the center or the guard at the line of scrimmage and penetrate and rush the quarterback when possible. His size may force teams to double-team him inside, creating rushing lanes for WLB Derrick Brooks and MLB Barrett Ruud. Plus his obvious speed makes him someone that must be accounted for on passing downs. He can be a very effective player in that position.
To that end, Carter shouldn't play every down. He'll should share time with Wyms or Jovan Haye or Ryan Sims, which would lessen the wear on Carter as the season progresses. The Bucs have learned their lessons on handling veteran players during training camp and the regular season. Tampa Bay shouldn't simply assume that because Carter has played every game of his NFL career that he's superhuman.
Plus, Carter's versatility allows the Bucs to move him to left end if Spires' play should fall off or if he gets hurt.
In full, Carter's signing makes more sense when you consider that he'll likely start at under tackle and provide spot play at end, if the Bucs need it. It wouldn't be a stretch to see Carter post half-a-dozen sacks from inside, which would be a huge improvement over the Bucs' under tackles since Sapp left.