Bruce Carter is entering a true make or break season. It’s make or break not only for the Dallas Cowboys but also for his NFL Career. Thus far in his 3 year career, he’s only occasionally flashed potential. Last year those flashes were nothing but a distant memory. Carter’s done little prove he’s even worthy of a roster spot on the NFL’s worst defense, much less worthy of a starting spot. Yet, fans still hold out hope he can reach his once scouted, “vast potential”.
Carter was drafted by the Cowboys in 2011. The second round pick was thought of a red-shirt first rounder because he was a first round talent who would be limited his rookie year because of preexisting injuries. Much like the Sean Lee pick the year before, the Cowboys would be patient with the player as he recovered from injuries. Carter was an investment. An investment that would one day pay off and make the wait all worth it.
Entering the last year of his rookie deal, Carter still has the Cowboys waiting to see their investment pay off. His development took a massive step back in 2013 when the Cowboys switched to a 4-3 defense asking Carter to play WILL LB in a changing coverage scheme that often included the Tampa 2.
Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli installed their new defense last offseason and Carter never figured it out. Carter was hesitant, unconfident, and often lost. The WILL position, made famous by Derrick Brooks (All-Pro Tampa LB), is the ultimate playmaking LB spot. But instead of making plays, Carter gave up plays. Over and over again.
Carter eventually earned a place in Rod Marinelli’s doghouse (which happens to be located at the end of the bench). A place where Carter still resides today. Many insiders say Marinelli doesn’t hold out high hopes for the man he saw implode last season. For Carter to carve out a place for himself on the team (and in the NFL), he will need to do it quickly.
With the loss of Sean Lee opportunities at LB are everywhere. Carter, slated to compete primarily at SAM with Kyle Wilber, will be given a legitimate chance to earn a starting spot. Carter is physically gifted, and when playing with a clear head and confidence, has the ability to be an impact player. His coverage is atrocious and will need to be improved immediately if he hopes to see the field in 2014.
The Cowboys have stated repeatedly that the best 3 LBs will start. The coaching staff is open to moving players around and finding the winning combination. Carter will have the opportunity but It’s up to him to do something with it.
Bruce Carter fits the weakside LB role the best. Contrary to popular belief, the weakside LB is the most important LB in Marinelli’s system (more important than the MLB). The weakside, or WILL, requires the most from it’s player and is in position to make the most plays. Carter has the most skill and natural ability of the remaining players in the position unit. It’s only natural to have the most skilled player remaining, play the most skilled position. In order to do so Carter will need to drastically improve his game and build up his confidence and knowledge before training camp.
With sub-par coverage skills Carter can still realistically win the starting SAM role. All LBs in Marinelli’s system need coverage skills but the SAM requires the least. It’s a physical position that will not be handed to him though. Kyle Wilber played well last year as a LB (couldn’t be worse than how he played as a DE) and looks to continue his progression at his new position. Carter will face an uphill battle fighting Wilber and probably Justin Durant for the SAM spot, but Bruce has the most ability of the three if he can just figure out how to use it.
Expect many position changes for the Cowboys LBs this offseason and training camp. With his poor coverage skills but strong athleticism Carter is my pick to win the starting SAM LB spot. He would be ideal at WILL but has done nothing to show he’s up to the challenge. If Carter can reach even a fraction of his potential, he can make a difference. He has something most 2nd round busts could only dream of in his 4th season – a chance. It’s up to Bruce Carter to take advantage.
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