A year ago, Bruce Carter was being compared to Derrick Brooks, the Hall of Famer who set the standard for weakside linebacker in the Tampa 2 scheme.
Now, Carter is competing for the right to start for a Dallas Cowboys defense that ranked dead last in the league last season.
Matter of fact, owner and general manager Jerry Jones routinely doesn’t mention Carter when discussing the Cowboys’ potential starting linebacker trio. He stresses the optimism about twice-retired newcomer Rolando McClain, Justin Durant and Kyle Wilber.
What about Carter?
"I think the fact that you’re not hearing as much about Bruce really means more the level that those three other linebackers are playing and the potential that we have in Rolando," Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan. "With all of that in mind, I think that’s as much as anything. Bruce, I would say, is playing at a higher level than he played at last year for sure."
That is pretty faint praise, considering Carter was one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments last season. Instead of blossoming into a star as anticipated, he was twice benched for journeyman Ernie Sims.
"He will never play at the level of his expectation or the fans’ expectation or the coaches’ expectation, because he’s absolutely one of the best athletes in the NFL," Jones said. "He’s fast and he’s got the size, so all of that ought to make him ideally suited for certainly our weak linebacker position.
"Having said that, I think you’ll see a lot of him. Whether or not it’s as a quote starter, I couldn’t tell you at this time, but I’m glad we’ve got him."
The question is no longer whether Carter can be a long-term foundation piece for the Cowboys, much less a perennial Pro Bowler. At this point, it’s whether Carter can contribute to a Dallas defense that desperately needs playmakers.