Dallas Cowboys’ Inside Linebacker, The Winner Is…


Sean Lee is a lock at inside linebacker.  But, in the 3-4 defense, there are two of them.  So, what I am talking about is the other position where the battle is between second year player Bruce Carter and the veteran signed in free agency, Dan Connor.

Let’s take a look at former Carolina Panthers Linebacker Dan Conner first.  At 6’ 2”and 241 pounds he and Carter are both about the same size.  Here is what the scouts have to say about Connor.

Positives: Strong upper body, good mobility and ability to change direction quickly, enough speed and toughness to excel against the inside running game, aggressive, good timing and anticipation, good vision and intelligence.

Negatives: Lacking a bit in lower body strength, does not have sideline to sideline speed, not many moves when rushing the passer and not very fluid when backpedaling into pass coverage,

Now let’s look at Carter.  Here is what the scouts have to say about him.

Positives: Tall, muscular, fast, explosive at the point of attack, great closing burst, smooth and fluid in pass coverage, a disciplined player that maintains leverage and does not bite on fakes.

Negatives: Lacks bulk, struggles to disengage from blocks and not many moves when rushing the passer.

Connor is seen as more of a run stuffer and Carter as better in coverage.  As has been discussed, one would expect to see Connor on running downs and Carter on passing downs, but in the Saturday night game against the Rams, it appears they took turns by defensive series.

This is what I saw against the Rams, Connor appeared to have problems with pass coverage.  He got beat on a pass play to the outside and the only thing that saved it from being a bigger play was the sideline.  In other passing downs, he was all by himself and looked lost in space, not sure who he was supposed to be covering.  He seemed to do fine on running plays to the middle.

What I saw with Carter though was a guy that appeared to do very well in pass coverage.  He got beat once, but was able to catch the receiver from behind before it became a bigger play.  He also appeared to do very well stopping the run.

Both players have a history of injuries, so you will see one of them take over the position full time if the other were to get hurt.  I hope that doesn’t happen and if it doesn’t, we should see plenty of both as this season gets underway.

However, my contention is, whether he starts or not, and as long as both players remain healthy, we will see a lot more of Carter as the season goes on.  He possesses difference making ability that you can’t coach and that’s speed.

What would you rather have, a linebacker that can stop runs in the middle or one that can stop runs from sideline to sideline, one that can make a difference on running downs or one that can make a difference on every down?  Yeah, me too.

After all, teams try not to show tendencies, so we can’t always know when they are going to run or when they are going to pass.  Especially when they pass out of run formations or run out of pass formations.

So my money is on Carter seeing much more playing time and becoming a dominant player at that position.  Let’s see how it plays out.

Other thoughts from the Rams’ game: Kevin Ogletree appears to have done enough to be the primary third receiver, although that pass the bounced off his hands was disappointing.  But is does look like spending more quality time in the weight room is paying off.  The tackle he broke on one of his receptions reminded me of Miles Austin.

Dwayne Harris appears to have solidified a spot on the roster and I think Cole Beasley has as well.  What I would like to see is third receiver by committee with all of these guys getting opportunities.  That being said, with the injury history of the starters, we could see a lot of these guys this season.

If it comes down between Andrew Szczerba and James Hanna for a final tight end spot, I’m betting on Hanna.