they probably need to give Carpenter a legitimate chance once and for all to see what they can get out of their first-round pick.
Yeah, the Cowboys signed 12-year veteran Zach Thomas in the off-season, their only free-agent signing so far. And yeah, Thomas' presence was the impetus for including two-year starter Akin Ayodele in that trade with Miami.
But this Cowboys coaching staff also had in mind clearing the way to give Carpenter and Burnett a chance to earn snaps at Ayodele's position, the weak inside linebacker spot better known as "Mo," as opposed to James' "Mike." Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart had a sit down in front of the racquetball courts with Burnett the day the Ayodele deal went down, telling last nickel's inside linebacker in the final year of his four-year contract how this was his big chance. Phillips told Carpenter as much.
"Wade told me he was moving me to where Akin was playing," Carpenter said, "and I'm excited to play 'Mo,' excited about the move."
The move makes sense for both guys. Where James must take on more blockers in the middle, the "Mo" spot is covered up, giving that linebacker a better chance to freely run to the ball and makes plays. Ayodele didn't hurt the Cowboys his two years starting, but Phillips wanted someone who made more plays - someone to make a bigger impact.
"I think Bobby's got a wonderful attitude and he works very hard at it," Phillips said, "and I'm hoping he comes through, not only for us but for himself because he has a lot of pride, and like I said, he's one of the hardest workers we have.
"He was kind of demoted last year and didn't get to play a lot, and he practiced just as hard, every day, and tried to do everything he could on special teams. He's a great kid, and I'm hoping things work out well for him - and that would help us, too."
Carpenter, when he got his two chances to start in 2006, showed he does have ability to run to the football. And he did a good job of sealing the outside against the run and jumping outside into the flat to defend the short passes to the running backs and fullbacks teams riddled the Cowboys with late in that 2006 season, starting with New Orleans.
Carpenter can't wait. He's a proud kid, the son of former Giants running back Rob Carpenter, and he knows what's been said about him. He knows how the media has written him off. He didn't - or probably couldn't - turn a deaf ear to all the trade insinuations being made in the past months, having become every blogging Tom, Dick and Harry's favorite piece of trade bait.
He even figured I thought he "was going to get traded," and while he didn't "anticipate getting traded," just getting moved to a position more suited to his skills already is boosting his confidence. He figures at least now, providing there are no more position changes, he's got a legitimate chance to compete for some playing time.
"Hopefully I've found a home there," Carpenter said.
Which would be a first with the Cowboys.
And maybe now we'll finally be able to tell if he can or if he can't, if he is or if he isn't.
Aren't you curious, too?