- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

Washington defensive end Andre Carter is quietly proving he’s the pass rusher the Redskins expected when they gave him a $30 million contract in March 2006.

Carter has six sacks in his last seven games dating to December. Only four Redskins produced better clusters of sacks during the past decade. Three of them — linebackers Ken Harvey (1997) and LaVar Arrington (2002) and defensive end Marco Coleman (2000) — wound up in the Pro Bowl. That seems far-fetched for Carter with just two sacks in three games this year, which doesn’t even put him in the NFC’s top 20.

“Six sacks in seven weeks is good, but I’m never content with my performance,” said Carter, who’s on pace for 11 sacks, which would be Washington’s second most in 13 years. “Last October, I was trying to learn the scheme. When you’re learning, you’re thinking too much. It was a strange transition after playing linebacker the year before.”

Carter said that talking with defensive coaches Gregg Williams and Greg Blache during the 2006 bye week made a difference even though his hot stretch didn’t start for another month.

“Whatever I was doing in San Francisco is working again,” said Carter, who led the 49ers with a career-high 12½ sacks in 2002. “I don’t have any special move. I’m a much better player than I was when I was there. My endurance and my level of conditioning are better.”

Not that the sculpted 6-foot-4, 252-pound Carter was ever a slouch in the weight room.

“[Andre]’s one of the best-trained athletes,” Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. “He’s off to a real good start, and [from what] I saw last year, he gets better as the year goes because he has such great conditioning, and most guys will wear down. He’s more accustomed to what we’re doing. He and [Blache] have a great relationship. He’s got a great motor. He goes hard. He never says a word in practice. [But] he’s first at everything.”

Carter could become the first Redskins player since Dan Wilkinson in 1998 and 1999 to lead the team in sacks two years in a row. And Sunday’s game at Detroit could be a prime chance to add to Carter’s total. The pass-happy Lions have surrendered a league-high 21 sacks.

“As a rusher, you love playing a team that passes the ball so much,” said left end Phillip Daniels, who compiled Washington’s other recent impressive sack tear in 2005. “Sacks are hard to get. You get one it’s a good day. Guys are chipping on you on the edge, or backs are chipping on you, or the ball’s coming out quick.”

Daniels took advantage of Dallas backup Rob Pettiti for his team-record four sacks in Week 15 of 2005.

“I was in a zone that day,” said Daniels, who got to Drew Bledsoe four times in the first 22 minutes of the second half. “No one could stop me. I just went in at halftime saying I had been close and knowing that I could beat this guy. You don’t want a backup to really shine against you. I came out after halftime with a look like, ‘I’m supposed to get the quarterback.’ It was crazy they never gave the guy help.”

Carter’s not in a similar zone, but Daniels is still impressed.

“Andre’s being real consistent,” Daniels said. “He had been a linebacker in San Fran, and he had to get comfortable with his hand in the dirt again. Now he’s not thinking at all. He’s just going. He’s using the speed rush a lot more, just beating his man from the edge with his first three steps. Those are the most important steps for a pass rusher. That speed rush is setting up everything else.”

Carter, whose father, Rubin, was a defensive tackle for Denver for 12 years, said NFL history helps him set up his moves.

“I watched ESPN’s top 10 pass rushers of all time during training camp,” Carter said. “You kinda learn from the greats, how they set up their opponents. Rushing the passer is a different mind-set than playing the run. It’s 100 percent full-speed, relentless just trying to get to the quarterback.”

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