Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players’ impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2014 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features linebacker Bruce Carter.)
Name: Bruce Carter
Height/Weight: 6-2 / 246
Experience: 3 seasons
College: North Carolina
Key stat: Carter finished third on the defense with 122 tackles, but only four behind the line of scrimmage.
Contract Status: Signed through 2014.
2013 Impact: If there was a player that I believed would have been a difference maker in this 4-3 scheme, it would have been Bruce Carter. It’s difficult to say that a player had a bad season when he had 122 tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss and three pass defense but those were Carter’s numbers. From what I had seen from him in the previous season while paired with Sean Lee, then taking over for Lee half way through the season, playing as the Mike, I was convinced that his nose for the ball, his ability to run and his physical nature to finish plays, playing as a Will in this scheme, he was on his way to great things. There were moments of brilliance from Carter where he was showing all those traits in which I spoke of but there were also games where he played like he had never stepped foot on the practice field and mastered those responsibilities. In studying Carter, when he was bad, he was really bad. I had never seen a player with his talent not have a clue where to fit whether it was run or pass. There were plays where he was late to read, react and even be near the play. On the field, his body language was that of, the more he played, the more that his problems compounded. When you talked to those in the organization, they were as confused of the issues that Carter was going through. Nobody had an answer to why he was struggling as bad as he did with his game at times. I remember asking Sean Lee about Carter and all he could say was “Bruce Carter was the most talented linebacker on this squad and his struggles might have something to do with the scheme and executing it, but there are things he can do on the field that I could only dream of.”
Where He Fits: Bruce Carter will continue his role as the Will linebacker in this scheme. He is just too talented a player to give up on him and this staff won’t. The job of Rod Marinelli and Matt Eberflus this off season will be to build Carter’s confidence back up and bring him back to the type of player that we had seen his previous two seasons. To me, Carter’s struggles have nothing to do with ability but with what is in his head. In 2013, we observed a change in Doug Free with his confidence and technique which resulted in him having a much better season. The skill was always there but something needed to be changed and it was. You have heard me say this before, scouts are trained to believe a player can accomplish special things if you see that player do it one time. I have seen Bruce Carter make game changing plays in his career and there is no reason that once again getting his mind right will allow him to be that player we all know he is capable of being.
Nick Eatman: One of the more disappointing aspect of last year was the fact Bruce Carter didn’t take that next step we all anticipated he would make. And now, as he enters his third year, you have to wonder if he will even win a starting job. I don’t think anything should be given to him just because he was a second-round pick. I do think Carter has great athleticism and sideline-to-sideline, his speed is valuable. Let’s see how he performs in the second year of a 4-3 defense. I have a hard time thinking Kyle Wilber would beat him out, but DeVonte Holloman could. I would guess Carter has to battle for a job and I’m interested to see how he reacts.