Coming out of Georgia, outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter was a raw yet incredibly versatile and athletic pass rusher that was utilized all over the Georgia front seven and who was even tasked to cover the slot receiver and offered so much promise to an NFL team.
Chosen 66th overall in the 2018 draft, Carter had 29 pressures, four sacks, and 23 solo tackles in his rookie campaign while recording 35 pressures, six sacks, and 28 solo tackles this past season (24 of those tackles were classified as STOPS).
He was primed for a breakout season in 2020 before he tore his Achilles against the Cowboys in Week 5. He assembled eight pressures, a sack, and ten stops in the five games before his injury.
The 25-year-old is entering the last year of his contract and hasn’t quite had the breakout season many of us hoped to see.
I believe that we would have witnessed a mini-breakout last year had Carter stayed healthy. He was solid in those games, and while he only had one sack, his run defense and pass-rushing repertoire, as well as his ability to convert speed to power, were starting to pop on film.
Let’s see some of his film in this edition of The Good, the Great, and the Ugly. (Carter is No. 59 in the clips.)
The Good: Pass Rushing
Carter had the athletic ability to bend the EDGE and corner to the quarterback while also showing active and violent hands.
This is a move that Von Miller consistently uses, and it’s called a ghost technique. It’s when the pass rusher fakes the long arm stab to initiate contact with his inside arm; this halts the momentum of the tackle up the arc and braces him for contact.
While holding the tackle in place, the pass rusher uses speed, burst, and flexibility to get up the arc quickly, win the half-man relationship, and dip that inside shoulder through and away from the blocker. Carter does this very well above.
Here’s another play against the Patriots from 2019 where Carter defeats a blocker (a tight end) and uses impressive lower body flexion to get around the edge and hit Tom Brady to force a fumble.
Carter uses that inside arm to hold the tight end from getting to his own frame while violently chopping the outside arm of the blocker to create separation; then, he dips through the contact and gets home.
This rep above happens to be against Tyron Smith #77. Carter is wide and adjusts up the pass-rushing arc to defeat the talented tackle; he initially attempts to make inside arm contact on Smith’s inside shoulder but fails, so he turns to speed.
He gets to the half-man relationship and dips at the hip when Smith knocks his hands off his chest. Carter quickly turns the corner on Smith, maintains his balance, and explodes into the pocket to hit Dak Prescott (No. 4).
This isn’t a sack, but it’s a really good play against a tough competitor.
This is a play from the 2020 season where Carter gets a sack against Mitch Trubisky and the Bears in Week 2. Carter uses a stutter before getting his hands inside and unlocking his lower leg drive to push the tackle backward, which opens up an inside rush lane.
Once Trubisky attempts to step up in the pocket, Carter adjusts and collapses inward for the sack. The power is apparent when he decides to bull-rush.
We see it again in the play above; it’s not exactly something that alters the play other than speeding Ben Roethlisberger’s clock up a bit, but it shows the power and bull-rush ability of a pass rusher that has the type of flexibility that we just saw earlier in this article. Combine both that power and the flexibility, and there could be a very dangerous pass rusher here when healthy.
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MORE "GOOD, GREAT & UGLY" BREAKDOWNS
The Great: Run Defense
Carter has come a long way as a quality edge defender who is strong at the point of attack and can leverage his responsibilities within Patrick Graham’s system. The duo of two former Georgia Bulldogs--Carter and rookie second-round pick Azeez Ojulari--could be a very young and very effective tag team.
Pittsburgh is going to run a pin-pull concept with the backside guard pulling to kick out the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOLOS), which happens to be Carter on the play. Before the kick-out, Eric Ebron (No. 85) is meant to slow Carter’s forward momentum, so the young pass rusher has two obstacles in his way.
Watch how Carter quickly senses the pulling guard after Ebron moves away from him; Carter aggressively sinks his body and attacks the guard with his inside shoulder, keeping the outside shoulder free and effectively utilizing the squeeze technique.
Carter does not allow the guard to kick him out; rather, he turns the guard into the B-Gap and creates the intended traffic jam. Carter does such a good job that he doesn’t force the spill, and Benny Snell (24) ends up falling.
We see it again here on G-Lead; the play-side guard kicks out, along with the center. Carter evades the block by dipping his inside shoulder and using lateral agility to move around the intended block.
This keeps his chest clean, and the lower body flexibility allows for Carter to easily dip around the block and shed, putting himself in position to make a play on the ball carrier. This is not easy, and it’s quite exceptional.
Carter shows brute force, low leverage, and an ability to absorb and shed contact with ease as he takes on the pulling near-side fullback from the shotgun, split-back, set. The D-gap gets wide, and it would have resulted in a huge play if Carter didn’t restrict it and not allow the fullback to execute his block.
Destroying tight ends is something that Carter was displaying last year. He just blows through tight end blocks while in pursuit--competitive toughness was never an issue for Carter, and his motor is constantly running.
By lowering his outside shoulder, Carter is able to use his play strength not to be deterred by the block, and then he just tracks the ball carrier down from behind.
It’s not just tight ends that Carter seems to have success against when facing the run. Watch how he can absorb the contact of the Bucs' tackle and re-anchor himself into the ground after the initial blowback.
The tackle attempts to use his inside arm to “sling-shot” Carter off the edge, but Carter’s strength is enough to prevent that desired outcome. He’s able to reposition, sink, and slide inside to make the tackle in the B-gap (between the guard and tackle).
The Ugly: Availability
My 2020 off-season critiques of Carter’s game were about him finally putting his unique and physically gifted skill-set together. However, through the 2020 season before his injury, "consistency" was being utilized as a well-rounded player. He only had one sack, but I sensed his third-year breakout before an early game injury in Week 5.
The injury is a tough one to come back from; the Achilles is a devastating one to suffer, but Carter is only 25-years-old. He’s on the last year of his deal with the Giants and was a part of Dave Gettleman’s first Giants draft class.
I haven’t written him off yet and still feel Carter's skill-set and potential are through the roof. But he does need to be on the field to realize all that and let's hope that when he does return, he's as good as new.