Cowboys want consistent effort from Bruce Carter

LONDON -- Jason Garrett often says the Dallas Cowboys have a meritocracy, where no one is guaranteed a starting spot.

That is one of the reasons Bruce Carter finds himself battling Kyle Wilber for the starting job at strongside linebacker. The other is that Carter is among the biggest enigmas on the team.

Carter can be excellent and awful within the same drive, and it can occur multiple times within a game.

"We believe in competition. We don’t believe in entitling a position or etching these positions in stone," Garrett said. "We’re constantly evaluting how people do in practice and how people do in the game, and we’re going to try to play the right guys."

Garrett said he still hasn’t decided who is starting at strongside linebacker Sunday against Jacksonville, but that has a lot to do with Rolando McClain's sprained right knee.

If McClain plays, rookie Anthony Hitchens will play weakside linebacker and Carter or Wilber will start on the strongside. If McClain doesn’t play, then Hitchens will play middle linebacker, Wilber will play strongside and Carter will play weakside.

Carter was playing well before straining a quadriceps against New Orleans. He missed three games, and has been a non-factor in the two games since he returned.

His sub-par performances against Washington and Arizona created an opportunity for Wilber to play. Wilber played 25 snaps against Arizona after getting just five against Washington.

"I like to keep the competition high," said Garrett, "and the guys who produce on game day, the next week they got a chance to play."

Wilber, a fourth-round pick, has bounced between defensive end and linebacker since the Cowboys took him in the fourth round of the 2012 draft.

"I think Kyle is very consistent. He’s very physical and he moves well," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "He also gives you an element of pass rush. He’s just a real steady guy, and you know what you’re going to get from him every snap.

"What we want from Bruce is a high level of energy every single play."

Until they get it, Carter’s playing time will remain as inconsistent as his play.