Tackle made by Bruce Carter. Tackle made by Sean Lee.
Expect to hear those words often this season Cowboys fans.
Through my weekly position series, I’ve talked several times about how the change to Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 scheme will only help better the Cowboys.
There will be no bigger beneficiaries than Carter and Lee.
Carter is already one of the fastest linebackers in the league and the 4-3 scheme will allow him to wreak havoc all over the football field. His job will be to have a nose for the football. Sounds simple right?
Carter will play the Will linebacker role (weak-side) on defense, the same position former Tampa Bay legend Derrick Brooks played for Kiffin. The comparisons are rightfully warranted as Carter’s ability is unquestioned.
His talent will allow him to make plays others can’t in the open field, and that’s key when your team is in a division with the likes of Robert Griffin, Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and Victor Cruz, among other speedsters.
I predict a big season for Bruce Carter.
The switch to the Tampa 2 will also benefit Lee to a little lesser extent. Lee, who actually is a former high school safety will be required to drop into pass coverage in Kiffin’s scheme. However, pass-coverage is one of Lee’s strong points as a linebacker. He should be fine in his new role.
With Carter and Lee, the Cowboys boast one of the better tandems in the league at the position. Their youth and upside leave a bright future for the team as they will be forces to reckon with. Expect both to receive contract extensions in the near future.
To round out the starters, I believe the Cowboys will start veteran journeyman Justin Durant. Durant signed a two-year, $2.4 million deal in the offseason. The six-year veteran will serve as the Sam linebacker in Kiffin’s scheme. In other words, he’ll play the strong side.
Things get interesting at this position after these three though.
Ernie Sims, Alex Albright, DeVonte Holloman, and Brandon Magee will compete for the backup roles. I believe that the team keeps six linebackers, leaving one of these guys as the odd man out.
Sims is the veteran insurance policy that is solid enough to plug in should Lee or Carter get hurt. So he stays, and actually has a chance to contribute for the defense this year.
Albright provides the Cowboys with versatility. He’s equipped to play two of the linebacker spots, could fill in at defensive end, and is a great special teams player. He stays here and contributes in ways that go unnoticed.
Holloman and Magee are rookies. Holloman was drafted in the sixth round by the Cowboys, and I think he gets every chance to make the roster here. Magee is an undrafted free agent who the Cowboys actually gave a higher draft grade to than Holloman. I think both players have enough talent to intrigue Kiffin into keeping them.
This means that the odd man out will be Caleb McSurdy. McSurdy, a seventh rounder in 2012, tore his achilles tendon last training camp, and appears to be a long shot to make the roster with two new rookie linebackers in the fold. Maybe he will earn a spot on the practice squad.
Overall, if this unit stays healthy, and that’s another big if for this team, the linebacker position could be a strength and provide tons of depth for the Cowboys in the 2013.