Fresno State pass rusher extraordinaire Chris Carter, who interviewed with Packers coach Kevin Greene while at the NFL Combine back in February, has been practicing for a transition to 3-4 outside linebacker in his preparation for the upcoming NFL Draft.
One of the conference leaders in both sacks and tackles for a loss and the WAC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2010, Carter played end in a 4-3 defense last season at Fresno, though there’s a decent chance he’ll be asked to play outside linebacker in the NFL.
Asked what role he sees himself playing at the next level, Carter replied, “Possible 3-4 outside backer, rushing the passer, dropping back in coverage.”
To that end, Carter has been working out in Los Angeles the past couple months with former Patriots outside linebacker Willie McGinest, a veteran of the 3-4 defense in New England.
McGinest is a two-time Pro Bowler, three-time Super Bowl champion and the NFL record holder in career postseason sacks.
But even though McGinest was such a prolific pass rusher, it isn’t getting after the quarterback he’s been working on with Carter.
“We’ve been working primarily on drops,” said Carter. “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% and I know everyone’s assignment. When you play DE, you pretty much only have to know the front-seven assignments, but as a backer, one thing they emphasized is making sure we know everyone’s assignment.”
Carter is attempting to remember his freshman and sophomore seasons at Fresno when he used to play weak-side linebacker under former defensive coordinator Dan Brown, who passed away from cancer.
Taking over for Brown in 2010 was new defensive coordinator Randy Stewart who utilized Carter as a defensive end and rarely had him dropping into pass coverage such as he would at the professional level if he were to play in a 3-4.
Even in a 4-3, he did rush from two-point stance a fair amount, however.
Measuring in a 6-1 1/2 at the Combine, Carter is slightly shorter than the other outside linebackers on the Packers’ roster such as Clay Matthews, Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga who all check in at 6-3.
However, Carter doesn’t think his stature will be an issue.
“I don’t really think height makes a difference,” said Carter. “You’re trying stay low, you’re trying to get low when you rush the end. So I don’t really get concerned with that.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had great success in the Dick LeBeau version of the 3-4 with shorter outside linebackers than the Packers, such 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and four-time Pro Bowler James Harrison who stands only 6-0.
Carter specifically referenced another former Steelers linebacker, Joey Porter, who’s had success in that defense without being 6-3, and he also counted Matthews as one of the league’s best outside linebackers.
Whatever system he finds himself drafted into, Carter is ready for the path that lies ahead.
“Leaving college, going into this process, I thought it’d be just 3-4 teams looking at me,” said Carter, “but a lot of 4-3 teams are showing interest.
“Same thing at the East/West Gamem a lot of 4-3 teams there. Exciting to see where I end up, either way.”