Defensive end Andre Carter had 10 sacks for the Patriots last season, including this one on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
The Raiders team that travels to Atlanta to face the 5-0 Falcons this Sunday has been feeble defensively.
Oakland ranks 28th in defense in the NFL, is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete a whopping 71.5 percent of their passes and has a league-low three sacks.
In a 37-6 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sept. 30, the Raiders’ pass rush was so weak it not only didn’t sack Peyton Manning, it didn’t touch him once as he passed for 338 yards and three TDs.
As San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy noted of the Raiders defenders after that game, they “don’t like to get their hands dirty by touching people.”
The 1-3 Raiders, however, have had some time to regroup since that loss to the Broncos, with a bye week. Just as importantly, the Oakland defense has activated Andre Carter and hopes he can make a difference against the Falcons.
Carter, who was signed as a free agent before the Broncos game, didn’t play in Denver but is ready to go now. The 33-year-old defensive end – who was drafted by the 49ers in 2001 out of Cal and played five seasons in San Francisco – is in his 12th NFL season. Last year, playing for the New England Patriots, Carter had 10 sacks in just 14 games and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career, but a quadriceps injury forced him to miss the final two regular-season games and the playoffs.
He wasn’t re-signed by the Patriots after last season, and was without a job until the Raiders picked him up, despite the fact 2011 was among the best of his career. According to the Boston Globe, Carter was credited with 51 quarterback pressures in 2011, while also tying a New England franchise record with four sacks in one game.
Since joining the NFL, Carter has 76 sacks while playing for the 49ers, Redskins and Patriots. His career high for sacks was 12½ for San Francisco in 2002.
Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver says Carter has healed from last season’s injury and has regained his fitness. Carter has faith again that his quadriceps is healed and he can go full bore.
“I think it’s better every day,” Tarver told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “What you have to build, any injury, you have to build that trust back. Anything you do, you test it. So he’s doing that every day and it’s gotten better every day.”
Carter is grateful he’s had some time since signing to absorb the defensive scheme and get his reps in practice.
“You take baby steps at first,” Carter told Tafur of getting back on the field and practicing with this new team. “But if you’re a smart football player and you know the game, it’s simple. It’s just a matter of repping it in practice. I feel strong. I feel good.”
Carter told the Boston Globe it was hard for him to sit through training camp and the first weeks of the season without a job.
“It’s always tough,” he said. “It definitely gives you a better perspective. Here I am trying to train hard and work hard and just get better, and as the season continued to progress and watching Sunday football on the couch with my son … I knew God had a plan and I just kept on continuing to be patient and in the end it worked out well.”
Tarver – who was on the 49ers staff when Carter was in San Francisco – says Carter has great technique with his hands and is a hard worker, so believes he can make an instant impact.
“He’s a pro,” Tarver told the Chronicle.
On Sunday, he’ll get his chances to rush the passer. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is No. 3 in the NFL in passing yards (1,507) and No. 2 in TD passes (13) and QB rating (106.1).