Carter’s comfort showing on field

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For most of his first season in a Washington uniform, defensive end Andre Carter fit right in with the rest of the Redskins’ hugely disappointing class of megamillion newcomers.

Through six games, Carter — who had averaged 8½ sacks in his three full seasons at end for San Francisco — had just 11 tackles and two sacks. Not long thereafter, Carter and defensive line coach Greg Blache had a heart-to-heart.

“Probably at times, I was a little bit robotic because I was trying to do what the coaches asked me to do,” said Carter, the 49ers’ first-round pick in the 2001 draft after an All-American senior year at California. “That’s what I do. I’m a coach’s son. I want to work hard and do what I have to do to make my team better. Greg said, ‘I understand what your mentality is, and now I’m asking you to let it go, be free.’ From that day forward, that’s what I did.”

Five games later, Carter’s tackles were rising, but the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Californian with the massive wingspan still had just two sacks.

Andre was getting pressures [he led the team with 21], so it wasn’t like he wasn’t getting to the quarterback,” said teammate Renaldo Wynn, who lost his starting spot to Carter. “As hard as that guy works, we just kept telling him the sacks were going to come.”

They did. Over the final five games, Carter recorded four sacks and was credited with 33 tackles (27 solo). His sacks led the team, and his 56 tackles (47 solo) topped the line.

Andre kind of played a hybrid position his last year in San Francisco,” assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said of Carter’s lone season at outside linebacker. “So [last year] he struggled with his footwork, his hand placement and his commitment of being a fulltime defensive end again.

Andre really made strides from about midseason on of just being comfortable with his technique,” Williams continued. “When you remove all that clutter upstairs of overthinking and you’re just flat playing hard, Andre’s one of the most finely conditioned people I’ve ever been around. His motor races as hot on the last play of the game as it does at the start of the game.”

Carter’s father, Rubin, was a longtime defensive tackle for the Denver Broncos before he went into coaching — including 1999-2000 with the Redskins. But the 28-year-old Carter doesn’t take football for granted despite being around the sport all his life.

“Time goes by fast,” Carter said. “This is my seventh year in the league. I love the game. I cherish playing it.”

Carter also wants to repay the Redskins’ faith in him and his linemates. Against all logic, Washington stood pat up front even though the line’s failures played a large part in the Redskins’ collapse from a 10-6 record and a ninth-place ranking on defense in 2005 to 5-11 and 31st in 2006.

“We play for each other,” Carter said of the defensive line. “You’ve got to live in the moment. We have to stay relaxed. Sometimes when you get too tight and too flustered, you kind of lose focus. You just have to line up and when the ball’s snapped play full-speed. Don’t second-guess yourself and lay it on the line.”

Williams was more to the point about Carter.

“What we’ve seen in the offseason and in training camp so far is that Andre’s poised for a breakout season,” Williams said.

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