Stephen Jones names Cowboys’ most critical defensive players

OXNARD, Calif. — If this Dallas Cowboys defense is going to be better than the group that finished 32nd in the league last season, several players need to step up.

Dallas Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones named three of those critical players Tuesday morning on 1310 The Ticket [KTCK-AM].

The names: Morris Claiborne, DeMarcus Lawrence and Bruce Carter. Between the three, the Cowboys have invested a first-round pick, three second-round picks and a third-round selection.

"That’s an investment," Jones said, "so all these guys, you want a lot out of them. I think Mo’s stepping up and having a great camp. We think he’s in the best frame of mind since we’ve had him. I was talking to [defensive backs coach] Jerome Henderson last night, I think he’s ready to make the turn.

"Bruce Carter the same way. There’s a lot more enthusiasm in his game. For whatever the reason, he didn’t have his bets year last year after Sean got hurt. He was really playing well before his injury. I think he’s got a chance to turn the corner. He’s got all the skills. He’s got everything you want in a linebacker, size, speed, the whole thing. He’s just got to turn it loose and play with the energy and enthusiasm that Rod Marinelli demands.

"And of course, DeMarcus Lawrence is one of those guys that you could wake up and when the offense breaks the huddle three or four games into the season, they might have to start trying to find that guy, saying where is he, we need to block him."

The Cowboys traded away a second-round choice in 2012 to move up and select Claiborne with the sixth overall pick. Bruce Carter was a second-round selection in 2011. Dallas traded away a third-round pick to move up and grab Lawrence in the second-round earlier this year.