IRVING, Texas — When Dallas drafted Bruce Carter in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, many wondered why the Cowboys rolled the dice on a linebacker who was coming off an ACL injury during his final season at North Carolina and a player many felt was a reach in the second round of the draft.
After not playing much as a rookie, Carter proved his worth to the Dallas defense last season, finishing second on the team with 70 tackles before an elbow injury in late November sent him to Injured Reserve and ended his second NFL season a bit earlier than he and the Cowboys had hoped.
However, that was last year and this ex-Tar Heel is now back on the field, where he and the rest of the defense are busy learning the ins and outs of the new 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and thus far, it’s a transition that is going well.
“Well, for one our scheme [is a big change] as far as moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3, we have a lot more stunts and stuff that we’re doing. Guys are still getting adjusted to it and getting to where it’s second nature, but other than that it’s still football. “I’m playing a different position as far as moving from mike to weak side linebacker, but other than that it’s still football,” Carter said.
He added: “Last year, me and Sean [Lee] had to take on guards a lot. But other than that, we still just line up and play football.”
In Kiffin’s new scheme, the 25-year-old linebacker will be moving to the weak side, a move which he feels will allow him to be an even more effective player. “It allows me to show my athleticism, show what I do, run to the ball with my speed and all the tools that I have,” Carter said.
Before meeting Kiffin this off-season, he didn’t know much about him other than his stellar reputation as the architect of the vaunted Tampa Two defense. But now that he has been working with his new coordinator for several months, he has come to appreciate not only the seemingly endless bank of football knowledge the 73-year-old coordinator brings to the Dallas defense, but also the equally impressive amount of energy he brings to each and every practice and meeting. “He’s a good guy. He’s fired up. You wouldn’t think a guy his age would be kind of quiet and what not, but he’s a fired up guy,” Carter said. “He’s always getting everybody fired up coming into meetings and that’s good.”
While the hiring of Kiffin has been the major change made to a Cowboy defense who has led by Rob Ryan, who is now in New Orleans, over the past few seasons, one familiar face who remained from the previous regime was Dallas linebackers coach Matt Eberflus, someone that this UNC product has enjoyed working with over the past two-plus years.
“Coach ‘Flus is a smart guy and he knows what he’s doing. Technique is key when you’re being coached by him,” Carter said. “Having him from last year to this year is pretty good. You get a good feeling from that.”
Now that Bruce Carter is healthy, new Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin as well as fans of America’s Team can expect the third-year linebacker to do what he does best, make plays on the defensive side of the football. It doesn’t matter if he’s lining up in the 3-4 or the 4-3 Carter is definitely a talented and valuable member of the Dallas linebacking corps. And now that he and fellow ‘backer Sean Lee are both completely healed, much is expected from both of them as well as the entire Cowboys defense in the coming season.
However, hearing Carter say that the change in system is no big deal, which means he will now play on the weak side, a spot where he feels he will thrive and that it’s still all about football has to make Dallas fans feel good. That’s because if the transition to the 4-3 goes as seamless on the field as it has seemingly been off of it, not only could the Cowboy defense finally deliver on its immense potential, but more importantly, Dallas could return to the playoffs and maybe advance farther than past the opening round in 2014.