Wide receiver Jason Carter is drawing attention for consistently performing well in practices, and now that he’s applying that to game action as a receiver and punt returner, he looks to have a real chance to make the final roster. See what Carter and head coach Brad Childress had to say about his maturation.
Slowly and seemingly surely, receiver-punt returner Jason Carter is making his impressions with the coaching staff and assembled Vikings media.
The 6-foot, 205-pound receiver out of Texas A&M came into the Vikings’ world after he went undrafted and has since been consistent enough to garner increasing attention.
“I was expecting to get drafted and got a good grade back. When it didn’t happen, I was like, OK, here’s another challenge. What am I going to do about it? Sit back and pout that I wasn’t drafted or go out here and make this team and show everybody that we got a steal with Jason?”
So far, he might not fall into the SAD (Steal After the Draft), but Carter is making an impressive bid to be one of the few undrafted rookies to stay on the Vikings roster.
His opening preseason line didn’t have a catch registered to him on offense, but he did average 9.7 yards per punt return on three attempts. While his average dipped to 8 yards per attempt against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday, he became more involved offensively, catching two passes for 48 yards, including a 42-yarder.
“My expectations coming in were just to work hard and earn some of the older guys’ respect, show them that I can play football, show them that I can make plays when it’s my turn to make plays,” Carter said.
“I think (I surprised people), because I take great pride in catching the ball. I try to focus and look the ball in every single time when we’re just doing drills and stuff.”
So far, so good.
The rookie who sports the old number of Daunte Culpepper (11) and has the same last name as two of the best receivers in Vikings lore has been a consistent presence at training camp, and now that is starting to translate into production in preseason games.
“He has position skills to be a receiver,” head coach Brad Childress said. “He has shown up and talked to (special teams) coach (Paul) Ferraro, has been decent with his routes and depths and those kinds of things. He’s a smart guy, a bright-eyed guy, and also he’s also been able to catch a punt, because there is nothing easy about that. It’s not just as a safe catcher, but he has a little bit of wiggle after he catches it.”
Carter’s contact with the Vikings began at the NFL Combine, where he talked to receivers coach Darrell Wyatt. According to Carter, Wyatt, who recruited Carter as a quarterback out of high school, told him that he hoped they’d get to work together some day.
“Some day” became May 3, when the Vikings signed him.
“My goal is to play. … I want to bring a lot of excitement and a lot of hard work to what I do. My goal is to play, but whatever the coaches need me do, I’ll do that,” he said.
His best chance to avoid the call of the Turk during roster cuts over the next two weeks will be to continue improving as a punt returner. With first-team returner Mewelde Moore expected to be sidelined for Friday night’s game against Baltimore, Carter should have another opportunity on special teams and on offense.
With Texas A&M, he was a serviceable option in an offense similar to one that the Vikings employ, at least in the respect that they both rely on receivers catching quick passes and making yards after the catch.
“We had a plethora of things that we did on offense, but we did a lot of short stuff – catch and run after it. A lot of quick, short passes but sometimes go deep,” Carter said.
He was a four-year letter-winner with the Aggies, finishing with 102 catches for 1,457 yards and six touchdowns on his way to being a Big 12 Honorable Mention by the conference coaches in his senior year. However, he was mainly used as a kick returner on special teams with only limited experience returning punts in his sophomore and junior seasons.
“It’s a little different (returning punts),” Carter said. “You’ve got to just take pride in whatever you do and try and make the most of it. I’m feeling really comfortable back there right now.”
And he hopes to continue getting his opportunities on special teams and on offense.
“It’s everything I thought it would be. I’m really privileged and honored to be here. It’s just a dream to be here. Hopefully I’ll cash in on this dream,” said Carter, who later added: “Once you stop learning, what good are you then?”