Inside linebacker Bruce Carter became a star of the OTAs.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan raved about him to reporters on Wednesday, saying, “I’m seeing a real player now.”
And Thursday, executive vice president Stephen Jones said in a radio interview that Carter is neck-and-neck with veteran Dan Connor for a starting spot opposite Sean Lee.
“Bruce is going to be a mainstay for us, regardless of whether he starts or not, in our dime defense and playing that nickel linebacker,” Jones told KTCK “The Ticket” 1310 AM. “He’s going to be a handful. One of the things that has really stuck out in this camp is what a great coverage guy he is.”
Connor hasn’t been able to work in the OTAs because of a shoulder injury, so Carter has taken every snap with the first team. It has helped him make an impression on Ryan.
“He’s the guy we thought he was when we drafted him,” Ryan said. “Obviously, it takes a little while, especially playing inside linebacker in this league, with all of the work he did on the outside in college. It’s been a long transition, but he’s learning every day, and we’re real excited about his progress.”
Carter said he wanted to play more than he did last year, and earlier than he did, after becoming active following a nearly year-long rehab from knee surgery.
In the long term, he said the Cowboys were right to be patient with him.
“I kind of agree, from learning what I know now, from last year,” Carter said. “It’s kind of like night and day. There’s a whole lot you’ve got to learn. It’s just step by step, piece by piece. I kind of agree with what they were doing with me last year.”
The Cowboys knew they’d have to wait out the knee injury. But the talent level of Carter was never in doubt, Jones said.
“That was going to be a tough thing to swallow while he was getting better, but he’s got first-round talent, first-round skills,” Jones said in the radio interview. “He really is playing well. He really has taken Sean Lee’s lead in his work ethic and the things he’s doing in the classroom, and he really is making an impression on everybody. He’s maybe one of the more skilled inside linebackers that we have had in Dallas since I’ve been here, as far as skills are concerned. We’ll see if he turns into a football player or not, but he is a really gifted young man.”
-- Carlos Mendez