Lions’ Alex Carter has new point of view at safety

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Lions defensive back Alex Carter always envisioned himself making the move from cornerback to safety later in his career.

It just happened sooner than he originally thought.

Shortly after last season ended, Carter said talks about a possible position switch popped up and he immediately began studying film of top safeties around the league, mainly of teammate Glover Quin.

“I took it in stride,” Carter said Tuesday. “It was something I already seen myself doing a couple years from now … but I’ve always been interested in learning the position and doing something new.”

Due to his size (6-foot, 200 pounds), Carter grew accustomed to people telling him he fit the mold for a safety. But he strictly played corner growing up, and it’s where he has been since joining the Lions as a third-round pick out of Stanford in 2015.

The path to landing a roster spot as a cornerback, however, became much more crowded with the offseason additions of former first-round pick D.J. Hayden along with rookies Teez Tabor and Jamal Agnew.

So Carter has adapted and still is making the adjustment in the secondary, one that allows him to see the field from a different perspective but also comes with trials.

“The challenge is you just have to know the entire defense,” Carter said. “At corner, it’s pretty simple —you’re either playing Cover 1 or Cover 2 and the safeties are telling you what to do. And when you’re a safety, you have to tell everyone, you have to make sure everyone is the right spots. The biggest change there is understanding the ins and outs of the defenses and how moving pieces work.”

Carter added he has to improve on trusting and acting on his instincts when he’s reading passing routes and run paths, which he said will come more naturally with more reps.


Yet he also remains a mystery after spending most of the past two seasons watching from afar. Carter missed his rookie year after suffering an ankle injury in training camp and spent much of last season on the practice squad after being cut following training camp. He received a late-season call-up and appeared in one game, playing four snaps on special teams.

“It felt like you hit rock bottom for a second (being cut) and you know you need to work,” said Carter, who has registered two tackles through two preseason games. “I’ve been motivated to try and learn the playbook and try to make this position change as fluid as possible.”

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said the competition is thick at most spots on defense, and aside from cornerback Darius Slay and Quin, the rest of the defensive backs are fighting for positions in the secondary.

And despite being in the midst of a position switch, Austin said Carter won’t receive any preferential treatment.

Cooter could be key to Lions finally unlocking run game

“We’ll look and see does he have the ability to make plays, can he adapt, can he tackle in space, can he track the ball and do all those things and then you make a determination on do you think he’s going to continue to get better?” Austin said.

“So that will be our evaluation. I won’t judge him any differently than I do Charles Washington, Rolan Milligan, Miles Killebrew. I won’t judge him any different. He’s in that position and he’s got to be able to handle the things that we’re going to throw at him.”

Austin commended Carter for the job he has done during the transition and said he has no regrets not moving him to safety sooner.

“He’s competing well, he’s learning well and he’s smart, so I don’t think that that’s an issue in terms of him being out of place because he doesn’t know the position,” Austin said. “We’ll just see. It could come down to a matter of if he’s playing better than somebody else in front of him.”