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By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter Scouting Report

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Jonathan Bales

In my post on my initial reactions to the Bruce Carter selection, I noted that if the Cowboys envision Carter as an edge-rusher, I think they could have found value at a position of greater need.  One of the reasons for that is my high opinion concerning the Cowboys’ current outside linebacker corps.  I graded the position as the Cowboys’ second-strongest and gave the following grades to DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Victor Butler:

1. DeMarcus Ware: A (94.0)

  • 2009 Grade: A (94.0)

2.  Victor Butler: B+ (89.8)

  • 2009 Grade: C (76.0)

3.  Anthony Spencer: B (84.6)

  • 2009 Grade: A- (92.0)

The idea that Spencer had a “horrible” year is absurd.  He played average but most of the media criticized him because of incredibly high expectations.  He still had 11 more tackles than Ware.

Butler is one of my favorite players on the team and I think he has potential to be a very, very solid all-around outside linebacker.  His run defense improved immensely, and his rush off the edge is elite at times.  Butler actually recorded a quarterback pressure on 11.8 percent of rushes last season–greater than Ware’s 11.0 percent.  And no, that wasn’t because Butler played on only passing downs since his 39.5 percent of snaps against the run was highest of any outside linebacker.

I explained why people should hold off on thinking Carter will stay at outside linebacker in Dallas, and all of the above pushes me to believe the Cowboys envision Carter as an inside linebacker with pass-rush versatility.  I can’t say that makes me agree with the pick, but it certainly softens the blow.  I would have been fine with Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson, whose skill set is similar to that of Carter.  The ‘Boys simply had Carter rated where I had Wilson.

After watching as much readily-available film of Carter as possible, here is my more in-depth scouting report. . .

Scouting Report

At just 241 pounds, Carter will have to put on some weight if he is truly set to be an outside linebacker in Dallas.  More likely is that he will stay at inside linebacker for awhile, with Rob Ryan finding creative ways to utilize Carter’s skill set.  Against the run, Carter takes very good angles.  He uses “inside-out” leverage, using the sideline as help when possible.  He will sometimes use the ”wrong” shoulder to take on blockers, allowing the ball-carrier to find a cut-back lane.  His overall play recognition is solid, though, and he seems to diagnose screens particularly well.

Others argue that Carter is weak in coverage, but I think he will be fine.  He kind of reminds me of Bradie James in pass coverage in that he does not always seem totally natural, but he uses his skills well to get the job done.  He has lots of experience in zone coverage in particular.  In my opinion, the Tar Heels really utilized Carter poorly, dropping him into coverage far too often and not developing his pass rush.  This has led to a very weak pass-rush repertoire.  He has some upside as a rusher or blitzer from the inside position, but he is raw.

Carter seems a bit robotic and stiff-hipped at times, despite his incredible athleticism.  Whereas a player like Sean Lee last season lacked some athleticism but played “instinctually,” I am afraid Carter is the opposite.  I need to watch more tape, but he sometimes appears to be thinking too much or sticking to exactly his assignment instead of reading, reacting, and making a football play.

The major issue I have with the selection of Carter is that he is unlikely to make a major contribution right away.  He won’t start at either linebacker spot, so he will be relegated primary to special teams duty in his rookie season.  Carter did block six kicks at UNC, so he has some value there.  Still, special teams ability isn’t really on the top of my priority list in the second round.

Overall, Carter is a good kid and a hard worker who should improve in Dallas.  If you are less than thrilled with this selection and need positive spin, remember that Carter has very good athleticism, tremendous upside, and potential versatility.  Or, just look at the 22-second mark against LSU.

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14 Responses to Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter Scouting Report

  1. Mark Watkins says:

    hmppf! I was really hoping that they would grab Brandon Harris with this pick. I have serious concerns with their CB situation, unless they plan to get one via FA.

  2. Vince_Grey says:

    Assuming he’s well from the ACL, this guy is a top athlete. Kind of reminds me of Ken Norton Jr. If he’s that, we’ll love the guy.

    Got no real problem if we have to wait on him a year to get fully back if it’s a wait that pays off. We DO need an inside pass rush, so there’s that too, and he’ll be great on ST.

    Rate this pick one a solid B.

  3. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I hope you’re all correct – I think the guy could be good but this pick smells of my wife buying her 15th pair of black shoes. Yeah, she got them on sale for a good deal, yeah they look and feel great on her feet but NO she didn’t really need another pair of shoes.

    The team has needs in other areas – Ijalana was available. Rahim Moore was available.

    Kenrick Ellis was available when Dallas picked up another RB in the 3rd…

  4. moses says:

    I agree with Tyrone.
    Sometimes I think our Scouting Dept tries to be too clever.
    If Carter does come back at full strength, would he be a top pick in the 2012 draft?

    If this team were the Patriots and we were coming off of a 14-2 season and had multiple #1s and #2s, then I would probably take a chance. Why not?

    This was a 6-10 team with a lot of holes. Instead of picking someone who can help us today, we choose an injured player.

    This would have been a good pick in round 5 or 6. It is a bad value in the 2nd.
    We’re drafting like the Raiders

  5. Vince_Grey says:

    “If Carter does come back at full strength, would he be a top pick in the 2012 draft?”

    Of course. It’s being widely said Carter would have been a top 15 guy if healthy, so if he’s a top 15 (If healthy) in 2010, I can’t see any logical reason he wouldn’t be a top 10-20 (If healthy) in 2011. Can you?

  6. john coleman says:

    I will reserve judgement until the guy plays.

    If we would have been ok with Martez Wilson here(#40), then we should be ok with Carter.

    ILB is also a legimate need. Last year Brooking played WAAAY too many snaps because of injury. Then Bradie played hurt and a bunch of snaps at less than 100%. Lee was hurt at least half the season, imparing his impact.

    Now if Carter does not play ILB, then I’m scratching my head.

  7. Vince_Grey says:

    Carter was once a safety I hear. I like that. Shows he can cover and run.

  8. john coleman says:

    I failed to mention that Carter blocking kicks speaks volumes about his willingness to play with reckless abandon and his athleticism.

  9. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Wasn’t trying to say that we should’ve taken Bowers – glad we didn’t as you are correct, he’s not a 3-4 guy.

    Round 1 pick is fine.

    Round 2 is a reach. That’s all there is to it. Some say he was a top 15 talent buty that midway through the college season as Carter tore his ACL on Nov 20th. Also, he played OUTSIDE LB – I know that there are some that can make that transition (luckily it’s usually easier to go from OLB to ILB than the other way around) but he’s still needs to learn a different mentality as far as being a LB. I’m not saying the kid won’t be good. I’m not saying he won’t end up as a solid player in a year or two. I’m saying he was picked too early. ILB wasn’t as big a need as O line and there were better options at O line that were available at 40 then the guy we ended up with rounds later. He probably would’ve been available in the 3rd as Martez Wilson was still on the board and probably would’ve went before Carter.

    Demarco Murray is the same thing. Good player (maybe a lil injury concern), good intangibles and perhaps may be a feature back. But why draft a NEW feature back when you never really gave any of the backs on the roster a TRUE opportunity to be a feature back besides MB?. Plus, if he IS the new feature back (and you get rid of MB and/or TC), that means that Dalals spent a 1st round pick on a 3rd down back (FJ)? I hear a lot about DM lining up in the slot and playing special teams – cool. They said the exact same thing about FJ. Point is, all these HIGH picks being used on specialty positions when not enough go to the real cruxt of the problem – both lines. It’s almost as if the staff sees all the glitz and glamour of drafting backs and high profile tackles but not enough on QUALITY lineman…

  10. Ken Bates says:

    Is Bruce Carter physical enough? Judging from the filmclips I’ve seen, he appears to lack “ruggedness” of sorts. Is he a finness player? Well, we have enough of those . . . . .

  11. LOL at Tyrone’s comment about his wife’s shoes…I told that to a friend because it is EXACTLY how I feel about the pick. Good player, but I think the Cowboys tried to get too cute here.

  12. Havelock Kicker says:

    Well to be honest i played ball with Bruce back in High School and he played QB and LB then and destroyed everyone. He would get hurt but you wouldn’t even know it after he steps on the field. He always just played through it and walked it off. So Dallas has a valuble player and soon all will see! Although he couldn’t block my kicks he’s still a outstanding player.

  13. moses says:

    Vince,
    Sure. What if he has a bad year next year, the talent around him makes his regress, he is moved to aother position based on team depth?

    Has there been any player that stayed for a Sr year instead of coming out his Jr year that fell off the radar?
    Baldwin WR Pitt Great year last yr, poor yr this yr
    Daniel S Clemson – Great yr last yr 8 this 4 this yr
    Saine RB Ohio St – Very good last yr. Bad season this yr
    Stanzi QB Iowa – supposed to be a top QB but had bad performances and dropped

    It is a gamble and there is no guarantee that Carter would be as productive as in the past.

  14. Vince_Grey says:

    I thought you meant if he played as well or better than he did as a junior. Obviously if his performance dropped way off that would make a big difference, but that’s true for anyone.

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