Carter continues to thrive in New England

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Carter continues to thrive in New England

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Andre Carter has said before how happy he is to play for the Patriots. He did, again, on Sunday night.

"It's just such an honor and opportunity to play for such a great franchise. I take advantage of it every day I step onto the field."

The feeling is undoubtedly mutual.

Carter set a franchise record with 4.5 sacks in New England's 37-16 win over the Jets. Some will look at the score as Mark Sanchez's failure against a weak defense and not entirely be wrong. But to do so is to discount Carter.

Sanchez completed 20-of-29 pass attempts for 306 yards and one touchdown. Some of the poor decision-making that led to two interceptions was typical of Sanchez, but his incoherence was inspired by New England. Carter gave the quarterback hell, bringing unrelenting pressure that started early.

On the Jets' second drive of the game, Sanchez took the snap on third-and-8 at the New York 42. Carter found him and dropped him for a loss of seven yards. The quarter ended with an exclamation point when Sanchez, in shotgun on second-and-6, found himself being chased again by Carter.

Lie down, Sanchez. Eight-yard loss.

Its one of those games Ill definitely remember. Im still shocked, still soaking it in," Carter said. "But regardless, Im very happy that we just came out here and won. That was the most important thing. Like I said, we came off two tough games back-to-back and this was definitely a must-win.

Carter's nine sacks in nine games lead all Patriots and only four players in the NFL have more. It's like the 32-year old has somehow turned back the clock to his days in San Francisco. His career-best is 12.5 sacks, recorded with the 49ers in 2002. It was his second year in the league.

Nine years later, he's on pace for 16.

It's no wonder Carter is so constantly grateful. Think about where he was last season: Washington, drowning as an outside linebacker in the new 3-4 Redskins scheme. Carter's 2010 campaign, 44 tackles and 2.5 sacks in just five starts, was one of the worst of his career. To ask for a release off that kind of season, at his age, was a risk. But Carter says he knew what was best.

He knew he could thrive with his hand in the dirt; New England gave him that chance.

"I thank God for the performance, for my family for constantly driving me, and the men that I play with every day and that practice with," he said. "Those people have been such a big influence on my life.

"But regardless, I'm just happy we came out there and won. That was the most important thing in general."

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Unconventional NFL draft grades

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Caserio: Brady's age has nothing to do with draft approach

Caserio: Brady's age has nothing to do with draft approach

FOXBORO -- The Patriots took four players in this year's draft. Four. That's the smallest draft class in team history

Instead, as Bill Belichick highlighted on Friday night, they spent multiple picks in this year's draft to pick up proven commodities. 

* Their first and third-rounders were sent to New Orleans in exchange for receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth. 

* Their second-rounder ended up in Carolina, bringing defensive end Kony Ealy and a third to New England. 

* They lost a fourth-rounder to Deflategate and sent another away in order to pry tight end Dwayne Allen and a sixth-rounder from the Colts. 

* They sent a fifth-rounder to Buffalo as compensation for signing restricted free agent running back Mike Gillislee. 

* Before last season the Patriots sent a fifth to Cleveland for linebacker Barkevious Mingo. 

* Before last season's trade deadline they sent a sixth-round pick to Detroit for Kyle Van Noy and a seventh-rounder. 

"Obviously, we’ve been watching a lot of picks go by," Belichick said on Friday, "but I feel like overall our opportunity in this draft started a couple of months ago. The four players that we acquired already are also part of the draft process. Hopefully we’ve been able to improve our team, become more competitive. That’s the ultimate goal."

Even on the last day of the draft, the Patriots didn't stop trading picks for veterans when they sent No. 183 overall to Kansas City in exchange for tight end James O'Shaughnessy

But when Nick Caserio was asked on Saturday if his team's approach to the draft -- taking more established players instead of gambling on draft picks -- had anything to do with Tom Brady's age, he shot down that theory.

“That has zero to do with it,” Caserio said. “I would say really the team-building process is very fluid. How it is going to go? There’s no template. There is no book with how it is going to go. 

"There’s a lot of really good players that were in this draft that have been drafted and will help their respective teams. We understand that and understand we felt the same way. There were enough players up there that we felt good about. We take the resources that we have and we try and make the best decision for our team."

In reality, the approach of taking such a small number of draftees is probably more a reflection of the current roster than the quarterback's age. It's loaded, and it seems like there will be relatively few opportunities for rookies to make the Week 1 roster.