Undrafted CBs make Broncos' Porter an afterthought
ENGLEWOOD, COLO. (AP)
Just a month ago, Tracy Porter in street clothes on the Denver sideline
was a welcome sight for any opposing quarterback.
Now teams might actually prefer to see him back on the football field.
Porter, who leads the NFL with three game-sealing interceptions since
2009, hasn't played in a month while dealing with problems related to a
seizure he had over the summer. He hasn't been missed on the field by
the Broncos (5-3), however, because two cornerbacks sporting big chips
on their shoulders after going undrafted out of college are playing so
well in his absence.
Combined, Chris Harris and Tony Carter have allowed just 23 completions
in 59 attempts, and Carter is the toughest cornerback in the NFL to
complete a pass against, according to STATS LLC.
Moving into the starting lineup opposite Champ Bailey, Harris has
allowed only 16 completions in 34 passes thrown his way, and he's
broken up a half-dozen throws.
Carter, who is playing in both the nickel and dime packages, is
allowing a league-low completion percentage of just 28 (7 receptions in
25 attempts) among the league's 103 cornerbacks and who have been
targeted at least 15 times.
Just as impressively, Carter has broken up as many passes as catches
''That's my first time hearing that,'' Carter said. ''That's a good
thing. I can go home and tell my mom about that.''
While he's not quite a household name, Carter's certainly more than
just a big name in his own family.
Coach John Fox recently heaped effusive praise on his coverage skills,
and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio praised his ''sticky'' man
coverage that he's brought to Broncos' strengthened secondary.
While everyone seems to be marveling over Peyton Manning, who's thrown
three TD passes in each of his last five games, Denver's defense is
quietly becoming one of the league's best, and these two smaller
cornerbacks are one big reason for that.
''We haven't had young corners play like this in a long time,'' Bailey
said. ''You might get one here, one there. But two like this, it's hard
to find that.''
Bailey has been around long enough to see plenty of teammates show up
strong during the week and disappear on Sunday. It's the ones who
transfer all that talent into three hours on game day that make their
mark and stick around.
Porter, who's making $4 million in a one-year deal this season and has
allowed 25 catches in 38 attempts, might just be relegated to veteran
leadership duty once he has cleared medical and cardiovascular hurdles
to return to action.
With Harris ($465,000) and Carter ($615,000) in the lineup, the Broncos
have surrendered just six pass plays of 20 or more yards in the last
three games - all wins - and none of those six passes have been caught
by the man they were covering.
''Everybody in here plays with a chip on his shoulder,'' safety David Bruton said, ''but they're playing for a lot more.''
Harris is a second-year pro from Kansas who climbed the Broncos' depth
chart last year as an undrafted college free agent, and Carter is a
fourth-year pro from Florida State who beat out veteran Drayton
Florence in the final roster cut-down.
Carter and Harris - each of whom had two takeaways and a touchdown
return against San Diego last month - have a bond that goes beyond the
position they play. Both were overlooked in the draft and both use that
snub as a spark.
''Chris and I have become close,'' Carter said. ''Just coming from the
same struggle and realizing that we are underdogs. So, we both go out
and I think we both play with that chip on our shoulder.
''And I'm undersized, as well,'' Carter said. ''So, I've got to have a
little feistiness about me and just take it personal whenever they come
Carter started all 50 of his games at Florida State, collecting nine
interceptions and 26 pass breakups and returning four takeaways for
touchdowns. Like Harris, he wasn't invited to the NFL combine, however,
and he's never gotten over not hearing his named called in the draft.
''Draft day will never come back again,'' Carter said. ''I feel like I
got the bad end of the stick. Every team passed up on me in the draft,
so I take it personally. Every team I play I try to have them say after
the game, `Why didn't we draft him?'''
Harris knows exactly how he feels.
''We want to go out there and play every week and prove to everyone
that we should have been drafted,'' Harris said. ''And that's something
that we take pride in every week.''
While Carter says he still has no idea why he was snubbed on draft day
in 2009, Harris said he knows exactly why he was overlooked at Kansas,
where he made 41 starts and played in 50 games: his Jayhawks were
terrible his last two years.
''That's really where it came from,'' Harris said. ''But the way I play
now is the same way I've always played since high school, with that
passion and feeling like I'm the best guy on the field.''
He wonders still why he didn't get an invitation to the combine for
scouts to see him up close.
''With my resume, I should have been there. I didn't see as many guys
who had as many starts as I did in college or with my production,''
Harris said. ''It's just a product of us losing games my last couple of
years, the program. If I was at Oklahoma and played the same way and
had that many starts, I would have easily been invited to the combine.''
They both figure they'll never get over being overlooked.
''Undrafted free agents have it a little different than guys that were
drafted,'' Carter said. ''So, we take that, we hold it. But in the end,
it's about opportunity. And we have our opportunities now.''
PATRIOTS INSIDER NOTE: Carter was with
the Patriots in 2010, spending much of his tenure on the team's
practice squad. He was active for three games playing mostly on special
teams and as a reserve defensive back.
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