IRVING, Texas -- When is a strong-side linebacker really a weak-side linebacker?
It's all about the definition used by the Dallas Cowboys' new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Bruce Carter is a weak-side linebacker in Marinelli's scheme even if he is lining up on the strong side.
Wherever the three-technique plays, Carter will line up behind him.
"I think you see the blocking patterns the same all the time," Marinelli said. "That guy's covered up. Hopefully he's a heck of an athlete. Hopefully it's harder to get a hat on him, so the speed and all those things you're using in terms of the run game. Then you're seeing the same thing from the same position every time. I think that helps a man grow faster."
Marinelli did it with Lance Briggs with the Chicago Bears, lining him up behind Henry Melton. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did it with Derrick Brooks behind Warren Sapp. In the 4-3 scheme, the two most important players are the weak-side linebacker and three technique.
The Cowboys will be more of an "over" defense this year than last year under Monte Kiffin but there were times where Carter lined up behind Jason Hatcher.
"We have travel rules and that's how we travel," Marinelli said. "It can look like one thing to you. It'd be like the under tackle. Well, he's playing an over front but he's the under tackle. It's just the system, how we move them, and we try to make it ... . I use the word simple, where guys know exactly and they see the blocks the same. Everything's the same and you get comfortable. Once you're comfortable you really play fast."
The Cowboys also call their safeties different than most teams. Barry Church is listed as the free safety with J.J. Wilcox playing strong safety. Traditionally, the strong safety is the one who plays closer to the line of scrimmage, but that is Church's role and Wilcox is more the center field safety.