And to think, Rod Marinelli once viewed Bruce Carter as his Derrick Brooks. Brooks was just inducted into the Hall of Fame in this same defense playing the spot Carter was “perfect” for.
Instead, that spot looks to belong to Justin Durant, who’s had a great camp, to be sure. The precipitous decline of Carter is both disappointing and confusing.
Consider the following. Sean Lee is out for the season. The Cowboys signed a twice-retired linebacker facing assault charges. The reserves include a converted defensive end from last year, a journeyman linebacker, a late-round pick from a year ago, and a cast of rookies and special teamers.
The physically gifted Carter can’t nail down a starting spot from that rolled-out red carpet?
Yes, it appears Carter is the odd man out looking in. The Cowboys seem determined to take the field against San Francisco with Rolando McClain at middle linebacker, Durant on the weak side, and Kyle Wilber on the strong side. Durant and Wilber have been impressive, and McClain is built for middle linebacker if his heart is in it, but Carter was certainly expected to crack the top three.
Weak side linebacker is the golden boy in Marinelli’s defense. That guy lines up behind Melton wherever the 3-tech tackle goes, which allows the “Will” linebacker to run free and make plays with his speed. Lance Briggs was the beneficiary of the system in Chicago.
Simply put, Durant has severely outplayed Carter throughout camp. “Why?” is the more perplexing question.
I blame it on Danny Woodhead. Carter played well in place of Lee the year before, and seemed destined to a long, well-compensated career in Dallas, as second-round picks should. But that day last year in San Diego put Carter in a stupor he can’t get out of. Woodhead schooled Carter out of the backfield and put a big, bright uh-oh light on him that he just can’t shake.
Carter looks apprehensive and late to the party on every play. His speed appears gone only because his giddy-up isn’t sure it wants to go. Gone is the free-flowing, sideline-to-sideline style he once brought.
In fact, I’m not entirely sure an injury would have Carter next up. That spot might very well belong to DeVonte Holloman. I’m not sure what Marinelli thinks of Carter at this point.
I don’t think all is lost. There’s time for a young guy like Carter to find himself. But if he doesn’t this season, he could well be gone altogether, especially if Holloman and Anthony Hitchens gain more of Marinelli’s confidence.