In the third game of the preseason, OLB Ahmad Brooks did not dress, which allowed former defensive lineman Tank Carradine extended playing time at outside linebacker against the Packers. Carradine was in the game for 39 plays which equaled 47 percent of the defensive snap count. In the first and second preseason games he played 21 and 27 snaps respectively which gave him an average of 29 percent of the snaps.
During the preseason, Carradine’s production has been rising and not just because of his snap count going up. He’s been getting pressure on the quarterback including a sack in each of the last two games and two QB hits in the third game.
Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil spoke about Carradine on Sunday before practice:
He’s progressing in the outside backer room. He can set the edge. He’s heavy handed. I would not want to block him if I was a tight end. He continues to show up as far as pass rush and he’s gotten better every rep that he’s gotten as far as pass coverage. So, he’s done a nice job progressing at the position.
I would say he’s probably made his biggest jump in pass coverage. That’s where he needed to learn the most. What’s a curl-flat drop? What’s quarter-flat drop? What’s a seam-flat drop? That’s where he’s probably made the biggest jump. As far as the run game, we just kind of moved him out two yards. He’s always been physical as far as the run game and then with the pass rush stuff, learning to rush from the edge instead of being an interior rusher. But, probably the biggest jump has been the coverage.”
O’Neil on Carradine setting the edge:
Yeah, when he’s on his line and he takes a good aim and point, that tight end usually ends up three or four yards deep into the backfield. And at times it’s been the same with offensive tackles. So, he’s a guy that can cave in an edge for us, which really helps us in the run game
Carradine spoke to the media after Friday’s game about becoming more comfortable in his new position.
Looks like you’re comfortable at OLB.
Yeah, I’m comfortable at outside linebacker, still adjusting, still trying to learn some of the coverages but so far I think I’m comfortable.
Is this the most comfortable you’ve been?
Yeah. Still adapting to it but as we go on, I’ll just get more comfortable.
Eli Harold has been getting the start. Do you feel like it’s still an open competition?
Man, I don’t know. I just leave it all up to the coaches. All I can do is go out there and play hard.
Does it matter who the starter is if you're getting equal snaps?
No, it doesn’t matter as long as you get the job done and you win. Biggest thing is winning. As long as we win, everything is good.
What do you weigh now?
I weigh 275 now. I think I need to drop a few more pounds. I could probably go back on the diet I was on.
What kind of diet were you on?
I was on a liquid diet. I don’t think I could do that going into the season but I got some other suggestions of things I might try to do so I can get down on the weight.
Would Chip approve of the liquid diet?
(laughing) Liquid diet, you know? You know, you just cut down on all other things.
Do you think you found your groove here?
Yeah, I think I have but at the same time I’m still adjusting. Still trying to get adapted to standing up and rushing out to there, and standing up and dropping you know? That’s something that as the season or the year goes on I’m just going to have to adjust to it to be able to do that.
Was this switch something that you fought for or was it recommended to you?
It was something recommended for me and when I was told, I thought that it would be a good idea. So we tried it last year at the last couple games, I got down to 285. I felt comfortable out there and still I knew I had a long ways to go.
Aside from being more athletic and quicker, do you feel more healthy?
I feel more healthy. I don’t fell out of place, out of shape, out of every play. When I was 300-305, after every play I was just tired. I didn’t feel like me.
Is part of it just more fun rushing the edges instead of anchoring the inside?
Yeah, because on the inside it was more of taking on doubles and holding the point. That’s something I had never done before. I had never done it in college so when I got here and had do do that it was a big adjustment for me. I thought I could do it, I thought I would have success doing it, I feel comfortable doing it but it just wasn’t me. So when they made the switch to put me on the outside I said, ok. I have a better chance of playing on the outside because I used to play it in college.
Do you feel the progression of this becoming instinctual?
Yeah, I feel that progression. Also more stuff you ave to do standing up. I feel tat progression, just gotta keep going.
What’s done is done but have you thought about if you started your career as an OLB?
Yeah, but everything happens for a reason. I was glad I was drafted and they brought me here to play defensive tackle and that was fine. Everything happens for a reason so no I’m just glad to be playing on the outside again and I’m just going to do the best I can do to help my team win.
How about playing coverage and making sure that you can cover guys out of the backfield. Is that an adjustment that you have to make playing in the 3-4?
Yes. That is a big adjustment that I have to make. Sometimes you want to go inside and make a play, but you really have to drive. So, I really have to stay focused on making sure that I complete that job by staying on the outside when I have to drop.
What was it like rushing a Hall of Fame quarterback like Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers tonight? What kinds of challenges does he present?
He presents challenges that I have to continue to move around. He is kind of mobile so once you think that you got him, he slips out of the way or ducks or something. He is just really mobile in the backfield. Next time I just have to keep fighting the rush and make sure I have him all the way.