Veteran Figures To Start Season As Backup, But He Brings Attributes Rebuilding Gang Green Sorely Needs

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The pass came down the middle of the field, was tipped by one Jets defender and then linebacker Bruce Carter tried to corral it. The ball hit the turf and Carter pounded the ground.

A few plays later, a running back swept to the outside, only to find Carter firmly standing his ground and ruining the play.

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It was that kind of practice Thursday for the seven-year veteran Carter. He was everywhere.

But that interception that wasn’t …

“The ball came in on me late,” Carter said, “and my teammate tipped it. I didn’t get a bead on it quick enough.

“Hopefully in a game, I catch it.”

Bruce Carter

Bills tight end Charles Clay, left, grapples with Jets linebacker Bruce Carter at MetLife Stadium on Jan. 1, 2017. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Carter figures to see plenty of action in Saturday night’s preseason opener against Tennessee. He likely will be a backup to begin this season because the Jets envision 2016 first-round draft pick Darron Lee, returning veteran DeMario Davis (reacquired from Cleveland) and third-year LB Lorenzo Mauldin ahead of him. Carter offers leadership, savvy and versatility, though.

“I like the versatility the defense offers at each position,” he said. “It allows guys at each position to do a lot of things. It brings out the ability of everyone: linebackers, safeties, DEs, everyone.

“For a guy like me, one with athletic ability, it adds more that I am able to individually do. I can do a lot of things in this defense.”

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That defense did a lot of nasty things to the offense on Thursday. The Jets are a work in progress, to be kind, when they have the ball. They are much more dangerous on D.

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But Carter and the other Jets defenders don’t want to hear about how the defense must carry the team.

“I think everyone has to be carrying the team,” standout defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “That’s all part: offense, and defense and specials teams. Not just one unit.”

Still, while the offense goes through major growing pains, New York’s defense will need to be dynamic. With a pair of rookie safeties — top pick Jamal Adams and second-rounder Marcus Maye — along with a mixture of youth and experience elsewhere, it’s a group with more promise than anything seen on offense this summer.

Carter, who played his first four pro seasons in Dallas, then spent a year with Tampa Bay and last season was a Jet, recognizes what he can offer to the younger players, particularly Lee and Mauldin at linebacker.

“Leadership. Doing the right thing and putting in the work,” said Carter, a second-round pick in 2011 out of North Carolina. “Showing that nobody is taking a day off, because on another team, nobody is taking time off. They are putting in the extra work and so are we.

“I was lucky that when I came in (to the NFL), I got around good players who had been successful and I followed their lead. Guys who were going to Pro Bowls in Dallas. Sean Lee and DeMarcus Ware, I would see them be successful and how they did it.

“It’s knowing what you’re supposed to do and where you need to be, being accountable on and off the field. You’re always being judged …”

Second-year linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who appeared in 14 games as a rookie and had 2½ sacks among his 22 tackles, pointed to Carter as someone to observe and listen to.

“I always look to those guys for help on coverages and just to figure out how to play on a higher level,” Jenkins said. “You’re seeking advice from the other guys, the veteran guys, on how to be a better pro.”

NOTES: Coach Todd Bowles said all three quarterbacks — Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg — would play against the Titans. Hackenberg, last year’s second-round draftee, was the focal point of a dozen questions for the coach after practice. Bowles admitted Hackenberg would play some with the first-team offensive line, but noted that just who is on that unit is uncertain. “There are about eight of them lining up for the first spots,” Bowles said. He didn’t say who would start Saturday night … Bowles made a sour face when asked about several drops by the inexperienced receiving crew. “It’s concentration or trying too hard. You’ve got to focus.”

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(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)