Tony Carter walks off the field after the Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers 35-24 at Qualcomm Stadium. (Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE)

Tony Carter Emerges In Broncos' Nickel Defense

Denver Broncos cornerback Tony Carter is listed second on the depth chart behind Tracy Porter, but he played like he should be listed first during the team’s 35-24 win over the San Diego Chargers.

Carter first came up with a recovered fumble and went the distance for six points. His score made it so the Broncos were only down 10 with 4:41 left in the third quarter. At that point, the game seemed more manageable.

Then when the Broncos were down by three points, Carter intercepted Philip Rivers with 11 minutes, 11 seconds left in the game. That takeaway led to a quick touchdown on a Peyton Manning-to-Brandon Stokley 21-yard pass.

“It’s hard to measure heart,” John Fox said of Carter. “We have all kinds of physical measurements we use. Tony’s a guy that in stature is not the largest human being there is, but he’s worked very hard.”

Carter is listed as 5’9″, 175 pounds. His heart has to be big. He signed with the Broncos out of Florida State as an undrafted free agent, and he’s lasted four years in a league that’s not kind to those who enter undrafted.

While at Florida State, Carter started all 50 career games he played in, recording 139 tackles, 9 interceptions, and 26 pass deflections. He returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns, and recovered one fumble and ran it for a touchdown.

Carter’s entrance into the NFL wasn’t smooth sailing, as is the case with most undrafted rookies. He spent the majority of his rookie year on the Broncos’ practice squad, but suited up in two regular season games that season.

The New England Patriots thought enough of Carter to sign him in 2010. He spent 14 weeks on the practice squad and suited up for the final three weeks of their season.

Then, Carter came back to Denver and played in the club’s final three regular season games and both playoff games in 2011.

“My hat’s off to him and how hard he’s worked, taking advantage of his opportunities,” Fox said.

He worked hard enough in camp that he made the team over veteran Drayton Florence. The Broncos only kept four cornerbacks on the roster. He got plenty of playing time in the nickel Monday night because the team moved Chris Harris into Tracy Porter’s (Illness) starting spot.

It will be interesting to see what happen in the weeks after the bye. Porter is a big playmaker, but that also means he’s a big risk taker. He’s routinely susceptible to getting beat, especially when opposing quarterbacks tend to steer away from Champ Bailey’s side of the field.

Harris and Carter provided more stability in the secondary, and I’d expect them to see more time even if Porter is healthy. The team has to groom their young players if they want to be a contender in the future.

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