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Important offseason ahead for CB Alex Carter

This is an important offseason for second-year cornerback Alex Carter, but that might be understating it a touch.

"It's very, very important," said Lions head coach Jim Caldwell at last week's NFL League Meetings.

Carter, Detroit's third-round draft pick last year, missed most of the offseason program finishing up his semester at Stanford. He then missed all of training camp and his rookie season due to injury.

Quarterback Kevin Hogan, a former teammate of Carter's at Stanford, told at the Combine that he ran into Carter at a Southern California training center this offseason.

"Oh, he's going to be better than the last time you guys saw him," Hogan said. "He's been working all offseason. He's stronger. He's been taking care of his body. He has a fire lit under him from sitting out that time."

Carter's rookie campaign was a wash after injuring his ankle early in training camp. He was placed on short-term IR, but wasn't able to crack the top 53 after coming off the designation with more than half the season completed and only a three-week practice window to earn a spot.

When veteran Rashean Mathis was lost for the season with a concussion, it was second-year cornerback Nevin Lawson who stepped in and started the second half opposite Darius Slay, playing pretty well in the process.

Lawson looks to be the favorite for the role in 2016, but Carter would no-doubt like to throw his name into the competition. First, he'll have to prove himself to Caldwell and coaches this offseason.

"He literally missed almost the entire year, for the most part," Caldwell said of Carter. "This is going to be a big year for him. Alex will get an opportunity to go through the workout program, the lifting and all of those things.

"The teaching from the ground level. Last year he wasn't there because, obviously, he was finishing up school. I think all across the board it's going to be huge for him."

Right now the Lions have Slay, Lawson, Quandre Diggs (slot), Johnson Bademosi, Crezdon Butler and Carter at cornerback. Carter has talent -- otherwise he wouldn't have been a third-round draft pick last season -- the Lions just need to see it come to fruition on the field.

"He has ability and he's a big corner (6-0, 198)," Caldwell said. "And he comes from a very challenging environment both athletically and academically.

"I'm hopeful that this will be a great offseason for him. We're not expecting miracles, but we certainly are expecting him to improve."

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