James and Keith Brooking at inside linebacker, there became an instant need that had to be filled.
With Sean Lee as one of the starters and second-year man Bruce Carter projected as the other, the front office needed to make a move to try to secure some quality depth for the position and provide some protection just in case the job was too difficult to handle for Carter.
When free agency opened, the front office went out and signed Dan Connor, an inside linebacker from the Carolina Panthers. Connor played in a rotating system with the Panthers, but was productive in the opportunities that he had to play. Connor has a real nose for the ball and is a solid, wrap-up tackler. He knows how to fit, doesn't over-pursue the ball and is good in traffic working down the line.
Connor does a nice job of filling the gap when he has to step up, or working wide when the ball goes out on the edge. He is a physical player who does a nice job of reading quickly and getting to the play. There is some pop to his game and he does a nice job dropping into his zone in pass coverage. He's able to adjust in coverage as he reads the quarterback.
In the Texans game, in Week 15 of last year, he was able to carry tight end Owen Daniels up the field from the slot. I was impressed with his ability to stay in position on the route. He gave Matt Schaub no room to throw the ball to Daniels.
Where Connor did have some struggles is when he got hooked up on blocks and was unable to disengage. For the majority of his snaps he did play with his hands, but when he didn't play with good technique there were some problems. I did see the ability to play with power, but he needed to do it more when trying to shed blockers. There were also downs where he was taken off the field in nickel situations, but in the games I studied - Green Bay, Washington and Houston - I didn't see this as a problem.
I like the signing from the standpoint that it adds a veteran linebacker who still has the ability and the nose to get to the ball. When he's on the field with Sean Lee it will be a race to see who can get to the tackle first. If Carter does struggle, then the Cowboys have a solid option at inside linebacker with Connor.