They've been impressed since the first day Jalen Carter walked into the NovaCare Complex as an Eagle. It's been so much more than the on-field ability, which was obvious to everyone. Making an impact requires far more than talent, and the ninth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft has done all the little things that are mandatory.
"He's learning how to be a pro. That's something that means everything – being on time, knowing when to ask questions, listening to the people around him, fitting in with all of us. All of that stuff is important," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "When you go through this for the first time it can get to a lot of guys. He has fit right in from the start."
What Carter has done in his first six games is undeniably impressive – 3.5 quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles, five QB hits, and 13 tackles in this 6-1 start (he missed the Jets game with an ankle injury) while playing half of the defensive snaps – and he has been lauded for his performance.
He returned to play against Miami on Sunday night and was a disruptive force with his quickness off the ball, his speed, and his strength. Carter played 19 snaps and was a handful for Miami to handle.
"Every time I'm out there," he said, "is a chance to get better."
But getting Carter up to speed on how to be an Eagle, something that comes with extremely high standards, unyielding expectations, and a locker room full of teammates relying on him is a very large part of the overall package.
And Carter has been a pro from the jump.
"It's really things like how to eat the right way, how to recover and be at your best the next day, how to watch film better," said second-year defensive tackle Jordan Davis, a great friend of Carter's from their college days together at the University of Georgia. "We talked a lot about it when he was drafted and it hasn't been any kind of issue. He's been natural, up to speed from the very start, and I think that helps with the way you perform.
"If you prepare the right way and learn how to do it, it's going to carry over to the field. He's having fun and playing ball out there."
For his part, Carter hasn't been in any way caught up in the hoopla of the hype surrounding him. He's gone about his business the right way and he's been accommodating and professional with the media. Carter is more comfortable talking about the team than the accomplishments he's had because that is the culture the Eagles promote: The team comes first, always.
"I'm here to help the team win. A lot of guys have helped me since I got here and that's the way it works around here," he said. "I'm just following what the coaches are telling me to do, using the technique I've been taught, and going out there and playing hard."
And playing very well in a deep and talented defensive tackle rotation. The Eagles lead the NFL in rushing defense (they held league-leading Miami to just 45 yards on Sunday) and they're turning up the heat rushing the quarterback and taking the football away. Week after week the defense is taking steps in the right direction and Carter, the rookie, is playing his role.
"It's impressive how much he loves football. He's like a sponge," Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai said. "He's asking for feedback. He's getting coached hard. And even from his peers, he's taking a lot of coaching from his peers, and whoever he can feel like he can get information from, a lot of guys are touching him.
"Coach (Tracy) Rocker (defensive line coach) obviously is a primary key point. (Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox) Fletch, obviously, has been big. And even (Defensive and Football Operations Assistant) Matt Leo has done a tremendous job of pulling him aside and doing things with him, (Defensive Ends/Outside Linebackers) Coach (Jeremiah) Washburn. That's the impressive part. He's a sponge, wants to keep getting better, keep being a big part of this defense and impacting, and he's taking ownership."
It is a long season and there is always the "rookie wall" to navigate, but Carter is off to a strong start. A village is helping build the rookie and Carter is receptive to all the feedback, and everyone is winning, just the way it's supposed to be.
What a win! Photography Director Kiel Leggere takes you behind the scenes for the Eagles' 31-17 Sunday Night Football victory over the Miami Dolphins. Check out the photos!