IRVING, Texas — There’s a lot on Bruce Carter’s plate entering his second NFL season. Because he was recovering from a torn knee ligament, the North Carolina product missed the first half of his rookie season. When he did see game action, the inside linebacker was mostly used on special teams.
But being the 40th overall pick, the expectations are much higher in Year Two.
According to the Cowboys’ top inside linebacker, Carter’s made positive strides that have been visible during organized team activities.
“Bruce looks great. He’s done a really good job of improving each day, learning the defense,” Sean Lee said Thursday. “I’m very excited about how he’s done.”
Continuing to learn Rob Ryan’s playbook and feeling comfortable moving around on his surgically repaired knee have allowed Carter to play faster than he did a year ago. Lee says he can see the improvements.
“I’ve seen the difference, especially from OTA 1 to now,” Lee said. “Obviously we all need to keep getting better and he does too, but he’s taken a lot of steps forward and he’s going to continue to do that.”
In less than a year, the Cowboys have changed considerably at the inside linebacker position. Keith Brooking, who started 33 games over the last three seasons, and Bradie James, who led the Cowboys in tackles six times, are gone and former Carolina Panther Dan Connor has signed a two-year contract.
Connor and Carter should battle for the other starting inside linebacker spot next to Lee. With Connor out recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Carter has taken advantage of receiving all of the first team snaps during OTAs.
“[Carter] has really stepped up,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones told Norm Hitzges in a Thursday radio interview on 1310 The Ticket [KTCK-AM]. “He really is playing well. I think he’s really taken Sean Lee’s lead in his work ethic and the things he’s doing in the classroom. He really is making an impression on everybody.
“He’s maybe one of the more skilled inside linebackers that we’ve had here in Dallas since I’ve been here, as far as the skill is concerned. We’ll see if he turns into a football player or not, but he is a really gifted young man.”