Arguably the CFL’s biggest and most head-scratching story will continue to play out. The Saskatchewan Roughriders depth chart for Thursday night’s clash versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats has Duron Carter still listed at cornerback.
The Duron Carter Experiment
If you are a non-CFL fan and are simply checking out Cris Carter’s son’s statistics in the CFL as a defensive player, you might think that Duron is dominating on both sides of the ball. Before last week’s outing versus Montreal, Carter had two starts at cornerback and collected two interceptions, both of which were famously returned for touchdowns making for highlight-reel plays.
But in reality, Duron has struggled immensely at defensive back in 2018. In Week 2, Ottawa’s Diontae Spencer burnt Carter on a basic go route – a route that has a receiver run vertically upfield – for a 56-yard score.
Saturday Night versus Montreal
Number 89, as Spencer coined Carter after Week 2, was victimized even more last Saturday versus the Montreal Alouettes.
Duron was at his boundary cornerback position and lined up against Montreal’s Chris Williams for the majority of the night. Williams, a speedy, injury-prone receiver torched Carter throughout the matchup finishing with only three catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Saskatchewan head coach and defensive guru Chris Jones often deploys a DB-friendly defensive scheme that sees three pass-rushers with cover-2 press man-coverage. As a cornerback, there should be help from the linebackers on inside routes and help from the two deep men on longer routes.
As a result, due to the play call, Williams’ 54 and 79-yard catches were not entirely Carter’s fault. Both of Williams’ 50-plus-yard catches were hauled in over a trailing Carter, but the coverage was cover-2 on both plays. What this means is that Carter should have had help over the top, which was late on both of Williams’ receptions.
All that being said, Carter’s so-called “press coverage” was godawful versus the Alouettes. On multiple instances, the 6’5 Carter lined up a yard or two off the 5’9 Williams. What transpired was Carter missing his jam, immediately turning around and abandoning any backpedaling to chase a passing Williams. Had it not been for help over the top or errant throws/Williams drops, Carter likely would have given up 200+ yards via his man. It should also say a lot that quarterbacks Drew Willy and Jeff Matthews hit Williams on his big plays (imagine if it were Mike Reilly tossing the ball).
Duron Carter Staying on Defence
After all of this, Saskatchewan’s depth chart has Carter still listed at the boundary cornerback for Thursday night.
The situation gets even more bizarre due to the fact that Saskatchewan is only carrying one extra defensive back (who traditionally plays safety) on their roster, and until this week had zero defensive backs on their practice roster. What this means is that Saskatchewan literally has no other options at defensive back.
Also, at field-cornerback (opposite of Carter) is veteran Jovon Johnson, who is still considered to be an above-average corner. Carter is deployed on the boundary and Johnson at the field, despite the boundary side seeing plenty more targets. Why Johnson is not placed on the boundary side and Carter on the more-hidable field side is another head-scratcher.
The Absence of Duron Carter
Not to be lost in this debacle is the offensive absence of Carter. When on offence, Carter is a game-changing, play-making, physical, lengthy weapon. Carter’s only reps on offence in the last two weeks came late in Saturday’s game versus Montreal. In those two weeks, the Riders have put up 27 points on offence. Coincidence?
Starting quarterback Zach Collaros has also missed the majority of the last two games, meaning that backups Brandon Bridge and David Watford have seen the field. During their snaps, Saskatchewan’s best weapon on offence (Carter) has been on the sidelines. The Riders’ offence is struggling, yet they choose to position their best offensive player on defence?
The Last Word
On episode 114 of The Waggle Podcast, CFL’s James Cybulski and Davis Sanchez raised the question of whether or not a rookie defensive back would be released if they put forth two-consecutive outings such as Carter’s last two. Both said yes.
Quite frankly, Carter’s defensive technique is unorthodox and is not effective. Speedy receivers are blowing by Carter off the snap of the ball and as a result, he is being exposed. Now hosting Hamilton, Carter is going to face possibly the fastest receiver in the league – Brandon Banks. One should be able to predict how this matchup should end.
Carter is one of the CFL’s best (and most entertaining) receivers and offensive players. The Riders should put him at the position where he’s best at.
Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Images