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Visualizing the subtle stardom of NY Jets’ Michael Carter II

Michael Carter II, NY Jets, Slot CB, Stats, Film
Michael Carter II, New York Jets, Getty Images

What do Michael Carter II’s elite (yet subtle) stats look like on the field?

Michael Carter II is constantly labeled by New York Jets fans as the team’s most underrated player, and rightfully so. Outside of New York and New Jersey, Carter II remains criminally overlooked.

While Jets fans see Carter II as one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL (if not the best), Carter II is rarely mentioned around the league in discussions about the Jets’ defense. There are at least eight players on the Jets’ defense who non-Jets analysts mention more frequently than Carter II. I’ve seen articles that mention Javon Kinlaw as a key piece of the Jets’ defense without bringing up Carter II. This is despite the fact that Carter II made a legitimate case to be an All-Pro slot cornerback in 2023; he received the sixth-most votes but ultimately fell short (a total snub).

The disparity between Jets fans’ reverence of Carter II and the outside world’s ignorance of him exists due to one simple fact: you have to look underneath the hood to fully appreciate his game.

It makes sense that nobody outside of Jetsland is aware of Carter II. He was not a high draft pick, so he came into the league as an unknown. To make yourself known in the league after being a low draft pick, you have to do flashy things to grab the average fan’s attention, and Carter II has not done that. He’s not a highlight machine (2 INT in 47 games). He hasn’t earned any accolades. He’s not a social media yapper who creates off-field headlines. Plus, he’s overshadowed on his own team by the Jets’ two great cornerbacks on the outside (a role that attracts more attention than slot cornerbacks).

Despite his lack of flair, Carter II has been a phenomenal football player, and Jets fans know it. The evidence they use to back it up? His sublime coverage stats.

Whenever Jets fans go to bat for Carter II, they bring his coverage stats to the plate. The Jets’ official X (formerly Twitter) account even participated in the cause with a recent post.

In the post, the Jets point out that Carter II ranked first in the following categories among qualified slot corners:

  • Fewest yards allowed in slot coverage (195)
  • Fewest receptions allowed in slot coverage (25)
  • Fewest yards allowed per slot coverage snap (0.54)
  • Pro Football Focus coverage grade (83.3)

These stats matter – far more than the traditional box-score stats that generate national hype – but they’re the type of stats that are generally only noticed by people who follow the team closely. Fans of other teams and national media writers are less likely to stumble upon them, as they’re not readily accessible in places where the average fan gets their stats – ESPN, Statmuse, Google searches, etc. In addition, excelling in these particular metrics (allowing minimal production in coverage) does not necessarily translate to viral highlight clips that will get a player’s name out there.

Unfortunately, Carter II’s yards-per-cover-snap out of the slot is never going to be a headline on the NFL.com home page. It will never get a graphic on ESPN’s Instagram page. It will never be acknowledged by the hosts on the Sunday FOX pre-game show.

That’s just the nature of the league. Flashy plays and narratives are what make players “stars” in the national lens, not their actual impact on winning, which can often only be conveyed through deeper stats that go unnoticed by surface-level analysis. (See: Diggs, Trevon and Woolen, Tariq)

To summarize, Carter II’s elite coverage stats are the separator between his justifiably sterling reputation among Jets fans and his total lack of a reputation among non-Jets fans. With that in mind, I wanted to take a closer look at those oft-cited coverage stats to understand what they really mean. What does “0.54 yards per slot coverage snap” look like on the football field? How does Carter II earn these metrics, and how does it translate to success for the Jets’ defense?

Let’s look at some clips to visualize how Carter II’s incredible coverage stats help the Jets win games.

Michael Carter II film

Preventing targets

Arguably, the best part of Carter II’s game is his ability to limit targets. Since he usually has his man blanketed, he rarely gets challenged – hence why he doesn’t make many highlight plays. This is a skill that makes a major positive impact but is invisible on the TV screen and in the box score. It’s the perfect formula for becoming an overlooked stud like Carter II.

According to PFF, Carter II was targeted 46 times across 359 snaps in slot coverage. That’s once every 7.8 slot coverage snaps, the third-best rate among 29 qualified slot corners (min. 200 slot coverage snaps). Here are some examples of this skill in action.

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verge tibbs
1 month ago

Excellent. This guy’s a great player and by all accounts a nice and humble dude. Im a fan for sure. I dont know how they can make a better system for statting backs in zone coverage but theres gotta be a better way. No cb can possibly cover 2 players 5-10 yds away from each other simultaneously. I feel like his likely job in that situation is to prevent the deeper target and limit the short one to as little yac as possible. Of course youre gonna give up some short completions in zone. As long as you limit his yac that should be considered a win or a draw for the cb. Imo.

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