Carter Cramming to Learn Jets' Style
By RICHARD LEZIN JONES
Published: September 1, 2004
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., Aug. 31 - Through his first week as a Jet, one of the toughest assignments facing quarterback Quincy Carter has been something that should be one of the easiest: getting the ball in his hands.
Before his unexpected release by the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 4, Carter had used the same rhythm and inflection in his snap count for years. But Carter's initial foray at the line of scrimmage during a practice with the Jets was met mostly by quizzical looks from offensive linemen accustomed to the pitch and tone of Chad Pennington's voice.
"The first time he went under the center and had the snap count everyone started looking at him," said Coach Herman Edwards of the up-tempo cadence favored by Carter. "It was just the offense that he was in; that's how they did it."
Since his signing last week, Carter has been getting a crash course and cram sessions with an offensive assistant coach who helps him study game film and the playbook through 16-hour days at the team's headquarters.
Altering the pitch of his voice has been one of more subtle challenges faced by Carter as he begins his Jets career after being released by the Cowboys amid reports that he failed a drug test.
The signing of Carter represents a significant risk for the Jets - should he fail another drug test, he would face a suspension of at least four games. But Carter's experience - 31 starts in three years while in Dallas - significantly increases the stability of a backup quarterback position that appeared to be the Jets' most glaring need on offense.
The Jets will get their first real look at what they have in the 6-foot-2, 213-pound Carter in Friday's game at Philadelphia, where he can expect to play the better part of two quarters. Before then, there is the small matter of learning a Jets playbook that has taken Pennington four years to master. After a Tuesday morning practice, Carter said the blur of the events during the past week was just beginning to sink in.
"Things are starting to slow down for me," he said. "The first couple of days getting into it was a little bit different for me, getting the terminology down because certain routes that we call in Dallas, they're a little bit different than we call here. I'm starting to get a little more acclimated each and every day."
Besides adjusting his snap count, getting acclimated has meant that Carter had to adjust from Dallas's offense, which put more of an emphasis on downfield passes, to the scheme of the Jets' offensive coordinator, Paul Hackett, which emphasizes short and intermediate passes based on timing and rhythm.
The subject of timing and rhythm leads to what will likely be another change for Carter: improving his accuracy. His career 56 percent completion percentage is lower than that of the most proficient quarterbacks in the West Coast offense, who complete roughly two-thirds of their passes.
Carter said he was eager to put what he had learned to use against the Eagles, but acknowledged that he was still far from where he wants to be. "I know it's going to be a little bit of a learning curve," he said. "Coach Hackett's offense is a little bit complicated, but at the same time, once you get it down, I see how you can really flourish in it."
The task of helping Carter learn the terminology involved in the offense - "it's like speaking Spanish," he said - has fallen to the offensive assistant coach Pep Hamilton, who said that Carter's exceptional mobility and natural athletic ability might helped him pick up the offense faster.
"It really won't take as long for an athlete like Quincy," Hamilton said. "He's coming in with open ears."
Because it would be impossible for Carter to take the field with the team's complete array of plays, Hamilton said he had been stressing the principles of the West Coast offense.
"We try to teach concepts," Hamilton said, referring to the importance of quick decision making that is a staple of the Jets' offense. "And there are some basic concepts that are the same in all of football. Some things don't change."
Carter said he was holding on to that truism - "it's football," he said, "11 on 11" - as he prepares himself for his first game action since a playoff loss to Carolina.
As for his snap-count cadence, Carter said he was confident that transition would come quickly. "It's just a little different," he said. "I got a couple of days to get the timing down in practice. We've got to go from there. When those lights come on, I'll be ready."
Asked whether he had goals as he prepared to take the field for the first time as a Jet, Carter shook his head.
"No goals," he said. "Just get the ball in my hands."