Head coach Jason Garrett is wise not to name new starters in February, specifically 2011 second-round pick Bruce Carter.
That only adds unfair pressure to the second-year linebacker, who turned 24 last week and registered one tackle in 10 appearances after missing training camp and the first half of his rookie season due to an ACL rehab.
"No one is penciled in as a starter," Garrett told reporters today in an extensive interview at the Combine. ". . . We still like him a lot . . . We're excited about getting him in the offseason program, getting him with (strength and conditioning coach) Mike Woicik and making sure he is physically ready and stable and ready to roll. We're to see how he progress into OTAs and training camp."
You can bet starting Carter is the hope, though.
Internally, the Cowboys never intended to overexpose him once he returned last October. Even though he was physically cleared to play by the Cowboys' medical and athletic training staff, he had just missed too much time in Rob Ryan's defense.
But when you think about it, the Cowboys have invested just as much in Carter as Sean Lee, who emerged as a defensive building block in his second season. They're both second-round picks. And with time possibly up for veterans Bradie James and Keith Brooking, Carter should have a clear path to a starting job next to Lee -- even though it's obvious the club must add some depth (probably a veteran) at inside linebacker.
Carter's got to show he's ready, though. And it's still only February.