2002. That was the last time the San Francisco 49ers had a double-digit sack artist before OLB Aldon Smith ended the 10-year drought with 19.5 in 2012. Interesting, right? You’re probably asking yourself, “Who was that player who accomplished that feat in 2002?” The answer is former 49ers DE/OLB Andre Carter.
Hand selected by the great Bill Walsh, Carter was the anointed one. He was the one player the 49ers had targeted throughout the entire 2001 NFL Draft process. However, the 49ers were in a vulnerable draft position. Despite holding a top 10 pick at No. 9, it wasn’t high enough to land the Cal product. Why? Because the Chicago Bears who hold the No. 8 pick were destined to take Carter off the board if he was available.
Walsh understanding the need for an elite pass-rusher in a transcending pass-happy league, had to make a move. Going against his own conventional wisdom of trading back and stockpiling picks, he did the exact opposite. Just one phone call away was Seattle Seahawks GM/HC Mike Holmgren.
The Seahawks held the No. 7 overall pick and were in the market of trading down, if the price was right. Walsh who had mentored Holmgren during his time in San Francisco used that as leverage in negotiations. It worked. The 49ers-Seahawks swapped first-round picks in a two-for-three deal.
The 49ers moved up to No. 7 while also receiving the Seahawks sixth-round pick (No. 191). The Seahawks received the 49ers first-round pick (No. 9), third-round pick (No. 82) and seventh-round (No. 222).
“I’m relieved. We had to give more than we hoped, but it was well worth it,” Walsh said after making the deal.
Carter would go on and play five seasons for San Francisco while racking up 188 tackles (18 for loss), 32.0 sacks, and 7 forced fumbles. His best year was of course, 2002, where he recorded 12.5 sacks. A successful NFL career, Carter would play 13 seasons while finishing with 80.5 sacks before calling it quits in 2014.
Now that his NFL playing career is behind him, Carter is hoping to pay it forward by coaching up 49ers OLB Aaron Lynch and newly converted OLB Tank Carradine. Part of the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship, Carter has been working exclusively with the outside linebackers, specifically Lynch and Carradine.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) June 2, 2016
Last week, we saw Carter observing the linebackers from afar, but today he tackled a more hands on approach. In my video above, I caught a candid glimpse of Carter working with both Lynch and Carradine on hand-placement.
But this goes beyond fundamentals.
You see, when Carter was with the 49ers there was a man by the name of George Chung. At the time, Chung was the team’s executive producer. But what many people don’t realize was that he played a big role in Carter’s 12.5 sack production by working with Carter on hand placement via martial arts.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) May 25, 2016
How do I know this? Because before every home game, me and my Dad would get to Candlestick four hours prior to kickoff watching Chung work with Carter exclusively on hand-to-hand combat.
He would work with Carter using his boxing mittens, and Carter would incorporate self-defense movements into his pass-rushing game. If I remember correctly, Carter once called him the Bruce Lee of the NFL, though I can’t remember for sure. In any case, one of the reasons why Carter was open to the idea of working with Chung in the first place was due to his own martial-arts background in Tae-Kwon-Do — having received a black belt at age 12.
Fast forward to today, and Carter is using the same technique learned from Chung with Lynch and Carradine. It was like a blast from the past for me, as I seen this before.
Not like I remember how to use it, but I also have a black belt in shotokan and will help breakdown the lesson by Coach Carter below as it all comes down to spacing:
This is extremely important, for two reasons. One, the lower half of Carradine/Lynch’s body is not a threatened state. Meaning although they are partially exposed on top (from Carter’s hand-placement), Carradine/Lynch both have 100% use of their hips to trim the edge and get by the offensive lineman.
Secondly, their hand placement creates natural spacing allowing them to shift their balance from a powerless position. You will notice in the video above that both Carradine/Lynch place their right hand between Carter’s forearm and elbow. In doing so, they will be able to set the edge while getting up-field, due to gaining advantage on hand-placement.
Carter had 6.5 sacks his rookie season in 2001. That total almost doubled the following year where he had a career-high 12.5, under the guidance of Chung. Can Lynch yield similar results after coming off a 6.5 sack performance in 2015? I believe so.
As the 49ers continue to coach up their young talented pass-rushers, it will be interesting to see how Lynch responds to Carter’s coaching, as his skill set can’t be denied.
In 30 regular season games, Lynch has recorded 12.5 sacks.
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