Rookies in any sport are always fun to follow because before they play their first professional game the potential career outcomes for them are boundless. They are a blank canvas upon which you can paint any picture. Will they impress early but go on to have an unmemorable career (which is called “going Mamula Mode”), will they be a guy who, when brought up in conversation a few years after they retire, you’ll remember fondly by saying “ohhhh yeah, I liked that guy,” or will they be on a bullet train towards the Hall of Fame?
This year’s NFL rookies have mostly only played one preseason game, so there isn’t any great sense in making sweeping proclamations about any of their careers (except Anthony Richardson...that guy is gonna stink!), but it’s tempting to still do so in some cases.
Eagles rookie defensive lineman Jalen Carter is one of those players whose career you can easily imagine as being more like a Van Gogh painting than one my 4-year old daughter (she’s talented in other ways!) made.
Fletcher Cox on Jalen Carter:— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) August 16, 2023
"Wow, the first time I've seen him in team drills...and just seeing how strong the guy is. The way that he moves. You see why he was—probably should have been the number one pick in the draft. He's special and I'm glad that he's here." pic.twitter.com/ib0Dt3V1HD
It took Carter ::double checks box score:: one snap to make his presence felt in last week’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. The rookie clubbed Baltimore guard Ben Cleveland aside swiftly and then ran down quarterback Josh Johnson, tackling him and forcing an incomplete pass.
It was the type of scheme-wrecking play that very few players in the league can provide, let alone rookies playing their first career snap. As our own Ben Natan noted in his first game report card for all of the rookies, “[Carter] should be making those plays early and often in his rookie year.”
There is, of course, the chance that Carter doesn’t live up to his massive potential. Injuries can derail a career quickly (he had ankle and knee problems last year at Georgia) and if Carter doesn’t put in all of the work off the field studying the playbook, well, that can also make his development stall out. However, there is nothing to suggest that he isn’t a student of the game and working with veterans like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham (as well as all of the other Georgia defenders on the roster) should only give him more tips and tricks for his arsenal.
With the talent surrounding Carter on defense, he won’t be counted on to be a superstar from Week 1. He’ll be able to ease his way into the defensive line rotation and the pressure on him will be minimal. I have already seen some rumblings about Carter being the best defensive line prospect since Aaron Donald but, while the potential is there for Carter to reach that level, I think we should pump the brakes a bit.
If Carter plays enough snaps this season he should be in the discussion for Defensive Rookie of the Year, but it is still unfair to compare him to one of the best defensive linemen to ever play the game. Let’s all just sit back and enjoy watching a potential All-Pro blossom in front of eyes, huh?
imagine the crowd at the home opener when we see Jalen Carter rip Kirk Cousins' spine out like he's Predator collecting a trophy— #1 steak collector in starfield fan (@philatticus) August 15, 2023
As a lifelong Eagles fan who lives in the Minneapolis suburbs now, nothing would make me happier than this exact scenario coming to fruition. I don’t ask for much, football gods, but please let Carter do this.