One of the biggest areas of concerns for the Dallas Cowboys during the upcoming regular season will be the linebacker position. And most of that focus will shine specifically on outside linebacker Bruce Carter. The fourth-year player out of North Carolina struggled last season despite recording career highs in both tackles (96) and sacks (2.0). Now, Carter is entering the final year of his rookie contract. And it’s unclear whether Dallas will choose to re-sign him at year’s end.
Carter is now blaming the transition in defensive schemes for his recent playing issues. During a charity bowling event last week between himself and fellow teammate, safety Barry Church, Carter answered the following twitter question as part of an interview with Gina Miller, host of the show Cowboys Special Edition with Jerry Jones.
Q: (You) seemed to be particularly challenged last year. Was it the new 4-3 defensive scheme?
A: “Yes, I think that was it for me. Just being more comfortable with the system. Going from the previous year in the 3-4, playing Mike to outside, playing Will; which is kind of like night and day. But in the same sense, it’s still playing linebacker. I think for me, (it’s about) just getting more comfortable at that position and knowing my role and just going from there.”
After a rookie year limited by injury, Carter began living up to the second round selection used by the Cowboys back in 2011, earning a starting role in his second season. But many considered 2013 a disappointment for the young linebacker as coverage issues landed him on the bench for two games. Lack of depth and injuries to the Cowboys linebacker corps forced his return to the starting lineup. But in many fans eyes, the damage was done. And now the word “draft bust” is being tossed around.
But Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones believes the best is yet to come for Carter. Here’s what Jones said about the speedy linebacker in a February interview with the Dallas Morning News:
“There’s an old adage, if you’ve seen him do it a few times, you know they can do it at least and you go from there. We know (Carter) can do what this defense calls for and be outstanding. We have some real reasons to be excited about him and certainly he’d be the first to say that he had some things that he’d like to take back. Overall, he’s got a future here … and that’s a positive. It’s not a condition, he’s going to become more of a pro and more understanding about the kind of commitment and the kind of detail and preparation it takes and he’ll be a lot better for it. He’s got the other stuff that nobody can coach, and that is speed and physical assets.”
Regardless of the lip service paid by Jerry Jones, the Cowboys front office hasn’t signed Carter to an extension yet. And it doesn’t appear they are in a rush to do so either. Make no mistake about it: In 2014, Carter is playing for his job. And if he struggles with Dallas’ defensive scheme this season, Carter won’t have to worry about that pesky playbook anymore. He can just turn it in to the Turk on his way out.