FLORHAM PARK — 2023 has been somewhat of a lost season for the New York Jets. Players like Michael Carter II though, haven’t been the reason.
Picked in the fifth round of the 2021 draft, Carter’s emergence as the top slot cornerback in football has been a meteoric rise for the Duke product. Through the current season, Pro Football Focus has graded out an elite 71.9. He leads the league in snaps per reception (16.5), first in snaps per target (9.1) and he’s allowed the fewest yards per snap (0.43).
All of the current accolades coming his way though have kept the mid-round corner grounded as he concludes his third NFL season.
“It just lets me know I’m just doing things the right way,” Carter told AMNY. “I still have a lot of room for improvement but it lets me know that my coaches are doing a good job in putting me in a good position.”
It’s hard to put into words just how good Carter has been. Compared to the rest of the elite secondary the Jets possess, having three of the highest-graded corners though is something no one in the NFL has. Whether it’s All-Pro Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, or Carter himself, each player is among the top players at their position.
That gives each player plenty of an edge to prepare for each game.
“We just feed off each other a lot,” Carter explained. “When one guy makes a play, we want to jump on that train and make a play on our own. Just seeing how each guy comes to work every day, you want to bring your best to the table for that guy. Ultimately, that brings the best out in all of us.”
Gardner and Reed are the biggest names on the outside and for good reason. The Jets elite secondary has had them ranked in the top-five against the pass in back-to-back years. It wasn’t just them though that has helped maintain those numbers this season.
Arguably the best example of Carter’s importance to the team came in New York’s 20-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in October. Before that game, both Gardner and Reed were lost for the game due to dueling concussions.
With Carter’s exploits in the slot, the Jets forced five turnovers from the Eagles and gave them one of their two losses on the year. It was a game that Philadelphia should have easily crushed the hapless Jets and the secondary found a way to stay afloat and win the game.
“If one guy does good, it makes everyone’s job a little easier. We have an amazing defensive line and amazing linebackers…we see that we have those pieces that are all really good, it just pushes you to be your best. You don’t want to be that weak link.”
At 4-8, there’s little to be happy about when looking at what the Jets should have been this season. Despite those concerns, particularly along the offensive side of the ball, there are plenty of young players seemingly coming into their own as top players at their position.
Luckily for Gang Green, not only is Carter among the best at his position, but he’s also a leader in the locker room who isn’t pointing fingers about why the team has struggled this season.
“We can’t look at it like that,” Carter answered when asked about the offense’s struggles concerning the team’s top defense. “It’s not about pointing fingers, see how you can get better and we can always get better. One or two explosive plays on our end can put points on the board…we can control what we can control. We’re all NFL players and we’re all here for a reason.”
As unsung heroes go, the Jets have one of the best in Michael Crater II.