Bruce Carter was the first name that popped in my mind the night I found out that Monte Kiffin had been hired as the new Defensive Coordinator. And I wasn’t alone either.
Bruce Carter is a Tar Heel. My name is Tarheel Paul. So I completely admit that picking Bruce Carter as my breakout player of the year can be considered somewhat biased with a definite hint of homerism. But as much of a Tar Heel homer as I am, when it comes to our beloved Dallas Cowboys I’m completely able to set all bias aside. The well-respected Rich Gosselin from the Dallas Morning News had very lofty goals for Bruce as well.
[su_quote cite=”Rick Gosselin – Dallas Morning News” url=”http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-cowboys/headlines/20130527-gosselin-with-his-size-and-speed-bruce-carter-is-a-perfect-fit-in-monte-kiffin-s-4-3-defense.ece”]“I want to see more of Bruce Carter on the weak side. Monte Kiffin moved him over there for a reason. With his size and speed, he’s a perfect fit for that weak side backer in the Tampa Cover 2 scheme. This is where Derrick Brooks played. The position has cleaned up. He will be put in position to make plays, to make tackles, make interceptions, force fumbles.”[/su_quote]
Well we all know how that ended it up working out. And while I’m his biggest fan, I was his biggest critic last year. I could not for the life of me understand why or even how this was happening. Our own writer here at DallasCowboysNation.com did a fantastic piece a month ago trying to put the pieces together as to why Bruce Carter struggled. If you haven’t checked it out yet, be sure to do so. Brian Leatherman – Bruce Carter: What Went Wrong?
So we could talk about why and how he struggled all day but that’s not what I’m doing here. Bruce Carter is my guy in 2014, and as much as I want him to breakout this season, I feel like he NEEDS to be that guy as well.
If this defense is going to make any improvement at all, I feel like – with the injury to Sean Lee – the linebackers could make or break the defense.
I think the defensive line is going to be a lot better than what the popular opinion currently is. It has a nice mixture of talent and depth and will come in waves. I also think the secondary will be much improved with Rod allowing Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr to play more press-man coverage which is what those two guys do best. So if the defensive line is improved and the corner play is improved then, to me, that’s going to make the lives of Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox a lot easier.
So what position group does that leave? The linebackers. And without Sean Lee, Bruce Carter is clearly the most talented player of this group. Now hopefully DeVonte Holloman comes on strong and whoever wins the middle linebacker battle can at least play adequately. But part of the reason my hopes are so high for Bruce Carter this year is because of a little tidbit I heard on The Lunch Break over at the mother ship – DallasCowboys.com.
If you skip ahead to the 36:15 mark of the broadcast, Nick Eatman gives you a sweet little nugget that he got straight from Jason Garrett himself. And this is the biggest reason I think he breaks out. Bruce will not strictly line up on the weak side. He’ll basically line up behind the 3 technique on every single play. Which in this case is Henry Melton. So where ever Melton lines up Bruce Carter will be behind him. This will allow him to use his freakish athletic ability to flow from sideline to sideline and make plays since the offensive line has its hands full with Melton. It was done this way for Derrick Brooks in Tampa Bay and Lance Briggs in Chicago. And I believe 100 percent that Bruce Carter has that same ability.
Now why do I have so much faith in Carter? Take a look at what Jerry Jones had to say about Bruce:
[su_quote cite=”Brandon George – Dallas Morning News, SportsDayDFW” url=”http://cowboysblog.dallasnews.com/2014/02/dallas-cowboys-owner-jerry-jones-confident-lb-bruce-carter-can-still-be-outstanding.html/”]“He’s working at it, though. We saw things, 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,” Jones said. “We know he 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.”[/su_quote]
Same thing goes for me. I saw it for four years at North Carolina and we all saw it in 2012.
The only real obstacle that can get in his way, in my opinion, is himself. He seemed to really lose confidence in himself last year, despite racking up 122 tackles. But he has to mature enough to be able to get past that because Rod Marrinelli doesn’t play those games.
[su_quote cite=”Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com” url=”http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/cowboys/post/_/id/4728240/marinelli-message-to-carter-its-a-mans-game”]“I don’t do confidence stuff,” said Marinelli, who was promoted to defensive coordinator this offseason. “Get down and play. Get down and play. Here’s your assignment key. We want you to play fast and we want you to take the ball away.”
“Go play,” Marinelli said. “It’s a man’s game, man. Play it the right way. That’s what I want. We’re going to coach it. We’ll coach you hard. Be where you’re supposed to be. This is what we expect. And then go.”[/su_quote]
But he seems to be getting it with this quote from linebacker coach Matt Eberflus. “It’s him getting his eyes on the quarterback and doing a great job of breaking on the ball,” Eberflus said, per FOX Sports. “He’s doing what we’re asking him to do. He knows what he has to do. He’s trying to make a step every day to work to get better.”
According to Scott Crisp of NBCDFW.COM, he seems motivated. “I definitely have a lot to prove to everybody, especially myself,” Carter said. “I want to come out here and just get this thing moving in the right direction.”
With all due respect to players like Anthony Hitchens, Will Smith, DeVonte Holloman and Justin Durant, the only thing that is going to keep Bruce Carter from breaking out in 2014 is the man in the mirror.