Cowboys feel an upgrade at inside LB

SAN DIEGO -- If there is a leader in the clubhouse to be the inside linebacker next to Sean Lee in the Cowboys’ 3-4 defense this season, it is last year’s second-round pick, Bruce Carter.

Carter, however, has not pulled away so much in his bid that Dan Connor cannot be found in the rear-view mirror.

But what the Cowboys feel they have done this summer is upgrade the inside linebacker spot from 2011, when Bradie James and Keith Brooking lined up next to Lee. James, now in Houston and reunited with Wade Phillips, lost his role as the defensive leader last year. Brooking, who is now in Denver, took over a role as a nickel linebacker last year.

The biggest difference where the Cowboys will see the impact of Carter and Connor is on special teams. James and Brooking volunteered to play special teams last year but simply lacked the speed to be factors.

Carter and Connor are younger and faster, especially Carter.

“We feel that position is healthier,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We feel like we have guys who can play, special teams guys, guys that can play on third down as well as be first- and second-down players. Those guys have battled every day to learn our system. It’s a nice situation to have all three players at the inside linebacker spot.”