Much like last year, the New England Patriots are in the market for a pass-rusher in the 2011 NFL Draft. In the past, Bill Belichick has refused to draft an outside linebacker that didn’t fit his prototype mold of a 6-4, 260-pound guy with long arms who can drop into coverage and play on three downs.
Belichick had been wary of drafting hybrid prospects until last year, when the Patriots took Jermaine Cunningham in the second round.
Christopher Carter played defensive end throughout college, but at just over 6-1 and 246 pounds, he’ll have to play outside linebacker in the NFL.
He’s slightly undersized for what the Patriots like to do, but that doesn’t bother Carter. So were LaMarr Woodley and Clay Matthews, and we’ve all seen (and probably cringed at) what those two are capable of. In fact, his short frame will only help him in pass rush situations where he will be trying to get low on the offensive tackle.
There is time yet to develop Carter into an every-down 3-4 outside linebacker. That’s where Willie McGinest comes in.
McGinest, who was the primary outside linebacker in the Patriots’ 3-4 system during their three runs to the Super Bowl, has been tutoring Carter. McGinest understands what the Patriots will be asking their outside linebackers to do better than most. Not only that, he has a great big-picture understanding of the defense. Perhaps he will instill some of the knowledge he gained about the Patriots’ schemes upon Carter.
It’s not just who’s mentoring him, but what he’s being mentored on.
“We’ve been working primarily on drops [into pass coverage],” Carter said. “I know how to rush the passer. That’s my big thing, work on drops and perfecting that, getting the hips loose. Making sure we go over the defenses 100 percent and I know everyone’s assignment.”
Chances are he’ll pick up on whatever he’s being taught. NFL.com lauds his versatility, saying he “shows awareness at DE that looks transferable to OLB and special teams.”
What he brings to the table as a pass rusher in the sub package makes him quite valuable to the Patriots, who played over 50 percent of their snaps out of the sub in 2010.