Cowboys Proof of Purchase: Bruce Carter

In some ways 2013 did not answer enough questions for the Cowboys regarding personnel. NFL Nation reporter Todd Archer looks at players the Cowboys don't know about for a variety of reasons.

IRVING, Texas -- If the drop-off in play of DeMarcus Ware was the biggest mystery to the Dallas Cowboys defense in 2013, then Chapter 2 was about Bruce Carter.

When the Cowboys decided to make the move to the 4-3 scheme and replace Rob Ryan with Monte Kiffin, they felt Carter had all of the tools to be the prototypical weak-side linebacker. He was big, fast and had a knack for making plays. At least he did in 2012.

Every weak-side linebacker to play for Kiffin will always be compared to future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks. That is not fair to anybody, but Carter has the makeup for the position.

Carter, a second-round pick in 2011, enters 2014, however, as a question mark. Last offseason he was mentioned with Dez Bryant, Sean Lee and Tyron Smith as the young core the Cowboys will look to lock up to a contract extension. Now that is not as certain.

Carter finished third on the defense with 122 tackles. He had two sacks, six quarterback pressures, four tackles for loss and three pass breakups. It's hard not to shake the memory of San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead beating him for two touchdowns in the 30-21 loss. It wasn't that he was physically beat, but his reaction to getting beat got him benched. There was a stunning lack of fire to his game.

In 2012 after the Cowboys lost Lee to a toe injury, Carter raised his game before an elbow injury ended his season. He had at least five tackles in the five games he played without Lee. He had a tackle for loss in four of the five games. He also had two breakups and two pressures.

The arrow was pointing up but something happened in 2013. He missed one game with a hamstring injury but had no other injuries that forced him to miss practice time.

This is a make-or-break year for Carter, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Maybe that brings the best out of him.

Proof of purchase

Lance Dunbar

Morris Claiborne

Gavin Escobar

Tyrone Crawford