HomeDa Birds NewsInside Look at Jalen Carter's 'Rookie Wall' from Eagles' Matt Patricia

Inside Look at Jalen Carter’s ‘Rookie Wall’ from Eagles’ Matt Patricia

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PHILADELPHIA – Over the first month of the season, Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter looked more like Aaron Donald than a typical rookie, generating 20 pressures over his first four NFL games.

His ability to disrupt the opposing offense was evident early, but over his last four contests, Carter has generated only four pressures causing some to question if the talented Georgia product has hit the proverbial rookie wall.

Carter smiled when asked about that sentiment last week by SI.com’s Eagles Today noting that UGA is still playing this time of year and when he was piling up All-SEC and All-American honors in Athens the Bulldogs were playing into and winning national championship games.

“Ask me after that’s over,” he smiled.

Carter, though, played just 21 snaps (33 percent of the defensive total) in a 33-25 Christmas Day win over the New York Giants, his lowest total in nearly two months.

Both head coach Nick Sirianni and defensive play-caller Matt Patricia denied that was tied to an offside penalty for not hustling off the field in time against the Giants.

“No, no, no, not at all with that,” Sirianni said. “That was – BG [DE Brandon Graham] was playing a little bit inside there, right? Fletch [DT Fletcher Cox] was having a really good game.

“In some of their two-minute drives we weren’t in some of those five-down packages, so that was more a product of the style of game and who we were playing at that particular time with getting BG on the field with [LB] Haason [Reddick] and with [DE] Josh [Sweat].”

Patricia claimed it was more matchup-driven.

Eagles defensive play-caller Matt Patricia.John McMullen/Eagles Today

“So you take those different sets, you practice through the course of the week, you work on them versus certain bigger guys that you may see inside whether it’s Fletch or Jalen [Carter] or Jordan [Davis], whoever it is, and then all of a sudden you get a little bit of a different skill set in there,” Patricia said.

“… Short space, quickness, all that stuff inside, working with the centers. Especially when we are trying to affect the pocket in a certain way, we just thought that matchup would be a good change-up.”

Fair enough but as accomplished as players like Cox and Graham are, no Eagles’ defensive lineman is as physically gifted right now as the 22-year-old Carter, who is a matchup nightmare when right and can win with a rare combination of size, strength, and quickness.

So, something else is going on.

To distance the thought away from Carter, SI.com’s Eagles Today asked Patricia about the rookie wall in a general sense and the veteran coach gave a detailed and thoughtful answer.

“I guess through the course of my years, seen a lot of different rookies and some have been able to handle the transfer really well and some have struggled through that from that standpoint,” said Patricia, who noted that the grind of an NFL season for any player is very real.

“I think that’s the biggest thing that you lean on is what is your routine. And you go into those modes of the season, and you just have those timelines that you hit and have those markers that you know, whether it’s you’re trying to get through September and then you get to whether it’s the end of October, you hit Thanksgiving, you hit Christmas, you just know the timeline of the season from that aspect of it.

“I think it’s interesting.”

On paper, the move from 16 games to 17 seems inconsequential but Patricia noted that it’s taken some time for players to adapt.

“Obviously, a couple years ago, you wouldn’t think it’s much, but when you went from 16 to 17, I did think that was a change,” he said. “I thought that was a change in kind of how the season time marker went for some of the players, and that took a little while getting used to.

“And certainly, for younger guys and rookies that come into the league, it is completely different than their timeline of what college was, and the markers that they might have had whether it was Thanksgiving or Christmas and then certainly the break before we got ready for whatever postseason they had, and grinding through those months staying consistent with it is hard. It’s new for those guys.”

The routine is the trick to getting over the hump, according to Patricia.

“I think that’s the biggest thing. You just try to get them in a routine,” said Patricia. “A lot of the guys, they will attach the veteran guys and kind of pick their brains from that standpoint of how do you do that.

“And that’s real and when you get through those harder months or those longer months where the grind is what it is, you just try to push them through to get them back at the end of it from that standpoint, so you just try to educate it.”

Related: ‘Like a Division Game’: Sirianni Previews Reunion with Gannon After Odd Offseason

For Carter specifically, it’s more than just the number of games and reps, however. After quickly putting the league on notice he’s seeing more double teams which are also having an effect when it comes to wearing down.

With the postseason assured and the inside track to the No. 2 seed with a possibility of stealing the No. 1 spot in the NFC, the Eagles want to win their final two regular-season games but they are also trying to serve two masters by managing players like Carter where the goal is to fill the potential difference-maker’s gas tank as much as possible for the high-leverage moments to come.

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