Denver Broncos: Quinton Carter Could Have Important Role in Defense's Success

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Denver Broncos: Quinton Carter Could Have Important Role in Defense's Success
JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

Does anyone remember any big plays Quinton Carter has made since the start of the 2012 season?

If your answer was yes, you might want to reconsider. Carter hasn't played since Week 3 in 2012, as his knee injury has cost him dearly.

He had two interceptions in the 2012 playoffs and showed lots of promise for the future.

And now, he finally has the opportunity to show that promise again.

Carter should be fully healthy and ready to go in 2014. He will face stiff competition at the loaded safety position, but he shouldn't have much trouble at least securing a roster spot.

After all, this is the same Carter who intercepted Tom Brady in his six-touchdown game, made 66 tackles in his rookie season and displayed above-average strength at the NFL combine by benching 225 pounds 23 times, according to NFL.com.

He is unlikely to start, but it wouldn't be unexpected to see him play on nickel packages. Strong safety T.J. Ward can move into the box like a linebacker, which would create an opening at Ward's normal position.

Rahim Moore and Carter could anchor the back of the Broncos defense. Moore, who has recovered from a leg injury and is ready to return to his starting position, will start on base downs.

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Moore's unlikely to be dethroned by Carter. However, that doesn't mean Carter won't play.

His coverage skills are solid enough for the Broncos. Opponents posted a 93.2 passer rating—per Pro Football Focus (subscription required)—against him in 2011, which isn't great by any means. This came in Carter's rookie season, so improvement is likely.

The Oklahoma product and Duke Ihenacho will likely compete for time in this role, unless second-year safety and former sixth-round pick John Boyett steps up. Carter shouldn't have much trouble beating out Ihenacho.

He has been receiving lots of praise. According to Mike Klis of The Denver Post, Jack Del Rio commended Carter's instincts and playmaking ability and mentioned him as a critical addition. Carter has received nothing but compliments, and that's unlikely to change.

After all, he did intercept four passes in each of his last two seasons at Oklahoma. He is inexperienced, but his raw talent and physicality could bring a unique aspect to Denver's defense.

He's not going to be required to do a lot in the nickel package. He will, however, be presented with the opportunity to make plays without any specific coverage requirements.

With the insane amount of talent on defense, the Broncos don't need Carter to do a lot. Ward allowed a 61.3 opponents passer rating, according to Pro Football Focus, and the athletic Danny Trevathan can also handle these coverage responsibilities. 

This would allow Carter to lurk in the secondary and force the turnovers Denver needed to force last season.

As NFL.com notes, he recorded his interception against the Patriots in the playoffs like that, and it could be how he picks off more passes this season.

Carter won't start in the base defense unless someone gets hurt, and with Ward's physical nature, that's very possible. However, he will still see plenty of playing time.

As Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com noted, the Broncos are in the nickel package about two-thirds of the time. This means Carter will see a good amount of snaps in this alignment, where he can make his presence felt.

The fourth-year safety has waited two years to prove his rookie season wasn't a fluke, and he finally has a chance. The open safety competition should benefit him, and it should lead to Carter locking down a substantial role with the team.

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