What Went Right, No. 5: Bruce Carter

IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys entered 2012 hoping Bruce Carter would be able to develop into a starter on the defense, but they didn’t know he would.

How unsure were they? They signed veteran Dan Connor to a two-year, $7 million deal as insurance.

The Cowboys are no longer unsure, but there is worry about Carter’s ability to stay healthy. They got him in the second round in 2011 because of a knee injury suffered at North Carolina, and he missed the final five games in 2012 because of a left elbow injury.

In between, however, Carter showed he has long-term ability if not Pro Bowl potential.

He finished with 80 tackles, good for third on the team, and his nine tackles for loss were a team high. He also had three quarterback pressures and three pass deflections.

The best part of Carter’s season came after Sean Lee went down with a season-ending toe injury at Carolina on Oct. 21. Carter took over as the defensive signal-caller and played better even as he received more attention from opposing offenses.