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Improved Jets Secondary Pushing CB Michael Carter II to Play His 'Best Ball'

Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed and the Second-Year Nickel Chasing “Each Other on that Road to Greatness”


In addition to fielding one of the NFL's top cornerback tandems with D.J. Reed and Sauce Gardner, the Jets have a nickel corner in Michael Carter II who continues to elevate his game in a talented defensive backfield.

"I think I am playing my best ball up to this point," Carter II said before the team's Week 10 bye. "Playing with Sauce and D.J., everybody looks out for each other. Everybody's competing at a high level, and they are constantly helping share and teach stuff. It is awesome because I want to and try to match their intensity and try to match their level of production as well. Everybody's just trying to chase each other on that road to greatness."

Selected in the 5th round in the 2021 NFL Draft, Carter II flashed in his first season while playing in 15 games and registering 5 pass defenses.

This season, Carter II has 2 interceptions, 5 PDs and 2 TFLs in 9 games. He is the 19th highest-rated CB on PFF with a grade of 76.1 and the 16th highest among players that have played at least 50% of snaps.

"I think just my communication and anticipation have improved being around these guys," the young defensive back said. "I play a lot of zone, so I have just been taking a deep dive into the film with them and seeing what kind of nuggets I can pull out and use on game day."

See the best images from the 20-17 win against the Bills.

Competing with Gardner and Reed in practice, Carter II has increased his film study off the field and seen improvement in his ball skills.

"It is all about the small stuff they have helped with," he said. "Film study, helping me be in the right spot at the right time and get my hands on balls and things like that. I think just my anticipation and communication with those guys, making sure I see what everybody else sees, has really improved."

In Week 9 against the AFC East-leading Bills and All-Pro WR Stefon Diggs, Carter II was a key figure on a defense that held a prolific Bills offense to 17 points and just 3 points in the second half. In 20 snaps matched up with Diggs, Carter II surrendered 1 catch for 13 yards according to PFF.

"We've gone up against a lot of good receivers this year," Carter II said. "You want to be in moments like that against receivers like we have. You want to play games against good guys because they present a unique challenge. You want to test yourself."

With players departing Monday for the week, Carter II said he plans to lay low during the bye but will continue to train for the stretch run.

"I am just going to make sure I get my body straight and continue to train," Carter II said. "Come back and finish the last stretch of games on a high note. Just get my mentals straight and keep getting better with those guys."

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