Bruce Carter, David Arkin work with starters

IRVING, Texas -- Inside linebacker Bruce Carter and guard David Arkin, the Cowboys’ second- and fourth-round picks in 2011, were bit players at best as rookies. They’d be starters if the Cowboys’ season opened right now.

Carter, who played 41 defensive snaps as a rookie after recovering from knee surgery, took the first-team repetitions next to Sean Lee during Wednesday’s OTA workout. Arkin, who was inactive every game last season despite being healthy, worked with the first-team offensive line.

Carter will compete with ex-Panthers starter Dan Connor, who signed a two-year, $6.5 million deal with the Cowboys this season, to start next to Lee. The Cowboys gave the speedy Carter a first-round grade coming out of North Carolina and considered him a steal with the 40th overall pick despite knowing that he wouldn’t be ready for the beginning of the season due to his knee.

“He’s really come into the offseason program and embraced it,” coach Jason Garrett said of Carter. “He’s gotten better physically. I think he’s healthier than he was last year at this time certainly. You can just see he’s getting more and more comfortable. He needs to play more football.

“He needs to play at a higher level, both in terms of his understanding of scheme and also just how you play relentlessly. That’s how you play football. He’s starting to understand that. You see flashes of that. He just needs to do it more and more.”

The odds of Arkin being a starter when the season rolls around aren’t as good. Mackenzy Bernardeau, who signed a four-year, $11 million deal with the Cowboys this spring, is sidelined after recently undergoing hip surgery.

The word on Arkin was that he should benefit tremendously from working with six-time Super Bowl champion strength coach Mike Woicik.

“I would say (Arkin has made) marked improvement from year one but has a long way to go,” Garrett said. “He’s two days into our football phase of the offseason. He’s done some good things out there but he has to improve, just like we all have to improve. He’s going about it the right way. He’s dedicated, he’s tough. He just needs to play more football.”

Some other notes about the depth chart of the first day of offseason media access:

*Brandon Carr, the $50.1 million headliner of the Cowboys’ free-agent class, worked at left cornerback. Carr played on the right side during his four-year tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs. Secondary coach Jerome Henderson said the coaching staff isn’t committed to Carr playing left corner.

*Third-year safety Barry Church was splitting first-team reps with free-agent addition Brodney Pool. Fourth-round pick Matt Johnson might also compete for the starting job next to Gerald Sensabaugh, but he can’t participate in Cowboys’ offseason workouts until his class at Eastern Washington graduates.

*Bill Nagy played center with the second-team offensive line. Nagy, a seventh-round pick last year, started at left guard until suffering a season-ending ankle fracture. He played some center at Wisconsin. Phil Costa, last season’s starting center, could face competition from Nagy and second-year undrafted center Kevin Kowalski, who did not participate in Wednesday’s workout for unknown reasons.