Michael Carter II was on the turf at MetLife Stadium for only 8 plays in the Jets' 31-27 victory over the Giants in the preseason finale on Sunday. Though he was only involved in 12% of the total plays on defense, 2 of those 8 plays made multiple highlight reels.
"We've been preaching all week to focus on our details," Carter II told team reporter Caroline Hendershot after the game. "I feel like we haven't started out the fastest in the [previous two preseason] games and that means getting off the field on third down. In the game, I wasn't doing more than focusing on the details. Everything's coming together and you can see the product in those first few drives when we got off the field and were rolling, contributing to third-down stops."
That first stop on third down came early in the first quarter after a fumble by that "other" Michael Carter on the Jets' opening drive. It was recovered by the Giants. On the next series, with the Giants facing a third-and-8 play at their own 30-yard line, defensive lineman Quinnen Williams and Carter II converged on Giants QB Tyrod Taylor, dragging him down for a 10-yard loss. Williams and Carter II each got credit for half a sack.
Asked if he's seen growth in the first-team defense, Carter II said: "Our communication and our intent are being focused on details. The details being communication pre- and post-snap, linemen's assignment and executing. It's coming together and we're being able to play fast knowing that our brothers are doing everything they need to do, so we can do our job to the best of our ability."
Carter II's ability has never been in question. The Jets drafted Carter II in the fifth round (No. 154 overall) out of Duke in the 2021 NFL Draft. He saw action last season in 15 games, logging 45 tackles, 11th most among rookies, and 5 passes defended, 12th among first-year players.
This season he, the defensive backfield, really the entire defensive unit will benefit from the signing of veteran CB D.J. Reed and the addition of top draft pick Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner. On Sunday, Jets HC Robert Saleh named Gardner as one of the team's starting cornerbacks for the regular season-opener against the visiting Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 11.
After the Jets' offense went three-and-out following the Giants' punt, Carter II made the most of his second and final series of the day.
Facing third-and-13, Taylor took the snap out of the shotgun, was smoked out of the pocket, ran up near the line of scrimmage and then lofted a deep pass intended for WR Kenny Golladay on the sideline. Taylor appeared to underthrow the ball a bit, while Carter dropped off his man and leaped for the interception -- the first of his NFL career, preseason or regular season.
"It really wasn't anything more than me doing my job in zone coverage," Carter II said. "It's how I played it, I made sure to keep my depth knowing it was third-and-long and not be baited into having the ball thrown behind me. Really, I was just waiting for him to cross the line of scrimmage or checkdown. He made a bad decision and when I saw the ball I had to get up and get it."
See the best images from the preseason finale against the New York Giants.