The Dallas Cowboys will begin training camp in Oxnard, California on Monday. And hovering over this year’s camp might be some of the biggest unanswered questions we’ve had about the team in quite a while. On paper, we know the team is good. But how just good will all be determined on the field. And when it comes to the field, I think there will be some unexpected answers to those questions that will surprise many Cowboy fans. Therefore, here is the first in a five part series of my bold predictions about Cowboy’s training camp.
Prediction #1: Dan Connor will beat out Bruce Carter for the starting inside linebacker position
After being selected in the second round of last year’s NFL draft, Carter spent a majority of the season injured after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while playing in his final year at North Carolina. This is the same injury former second round pick linebacker Sean Lee had to recover from going into his rookie season as a Cowboy the year before. But outside of their draft round and similar injuries, there is one major difference between the two.
Lee showed glimpses of greatness when he finally got on the field in his rookie season, culminating with a great two interception performance against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. What did Bruce Carter do? Next to nothing. So much so, his stats aren’t even worth repeating. Basically, he had zero impact and probably should have sat out.
Connor, on the other hand, proved his worth last year after successfully taking over the starting linebacker position for the Carolina Panthers when Jon Beason suffered a season ending injury. The fourth year pro ended the year with 75 tackles including 10 against the dreaded Washington Redskins. The Cowboys signed Connor to a two year deal during free agency as insurance at the linebacker position. They needed a veteran presence there after releasing Keith Brooking and Bradie James in the off-season.
Carter has been in the system longer and did benefit earlier this year when Connor missed OTA’s due to offseason shoulder surgery. But regardless of his extra time in practice, I truly believe nothing beats actual game-day experience. And I have seen absolutely nothing to make me believe Carter could beat out an established solid linebacker like Connor for the starting position.
I’m not saying Carter is a bust because he has the raw tools and potential to be great. But production beats potential everytime. And Connor is all about production. And Carter simply has none.