Will Bobby Carpenter get his chance to shine?

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Let's be honest.

A first round draft pick, coveted out of college and yet has just 37 tackles in two years, mostly on special teams. It looks doubtful that he will start a game this year either and will receive limited playing time yet again. It is very easy to think of Bobby Carpenter as a bust.

I have been hesitant to do so and have held the opinion that he has yet to really be given a chance to make his mark on the team. His rookie season he was making a position move, and learning a new defense; in college he played in a primarily 4-3 defense. Most of his first season was spent on the bench but then he was given the task of shadowing Michael Vick in week 15. He had a tremendous game, finishing with 4 tackles and 1.5 sacks as he was able to hold Vick in check. He also came on strong in the playoff game against Seattle and was arguably the best players on the Cowboys' defense that game. Fans were encouraged that he was coming into his own and would be a playmaker in the works.

Last season a brand new coaching staff took over and Carpenter had a chance to shine and prove he deserved more playing time. Unfortunately it didn't click for him and he suffered an injury that limited his effectiveness and subdued his aggressive style. He didn't tell his coaches of the injury and underwhelmed in the final preseason game, sealing his fate as an underachiever. The injury would stick with him during the season and he saw limited time with the defense. However, Carpenter really started to come on strong on special teams and showed promise that he could still make plays when needed.

This year would seem to be the final shot for Carpenter, and he knows it.

"I have to go above and beyond everyone else's expectations because I don’t know necessarily if anyone here is really pulling for me to get on the field anymore," Carpenter said. "So I feel like I have to get out there and prove to everyone that I belong. And you know what? If they don’t think that, and don’t think I am good enough, I’ll be able top live with that."

The last few practices have turned into the Bobby Carpenter show as he has taken advantage of every oppurtunity he gets on the field. He has shown discipline and speed against the run and the ability to make plays against the pass. Wade Phillips was barraged with questions about Carpenter and how much playing time he will get, but the coaches say that will be determined in the preseason games.

His first real test comes next Saturday in the preseason opener against San Diego.

"We’ll know more about Bobby and how far he has come," Cowboys first-year linebacker coach Reggie Herring said. "That’s going to be the true test and we’re looking forward to seeing how far he has come. Right now, it’s looking good and he’s making plays. The judgment day will come when the live bullets starting flying."

The problem is that even if he has a lights out preseason, Carpenter will still see limited time at linebacker.

ith Bradie James, Zach Thomas and Kevin Burnett also playing inside linebacker, the Cowboys have plenty of depth, but finding suitable time for all four players will be difficult.

James and Thomas will be primarily used on 1st and 2nd downs and Burnett will play in passing situations. Right now the team has Anthony Henry playing in the other linebacker spot in the nickel. Barring injury Carpenter may not see a whole lot of action no matter how well he plays in practice.

So the question is has Carpenter let opportunity pass him by? Last year was the perfect situation to make a good impression and he was unable to do so. Wade Phillips stated that perhaps they were too quick to judge on Carpenter but the damage was already done. The best thing he can do at this point is to play so well that he forces his way into playing time. If he plays well enough in the upcoming games coaches will have to find a way to get him on the field.

Not a bad situation to find yourself in regarding your fourth ILB.

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Peter King was calling was calling for Tony Romo to start all the way back in July 2006, way before Romo started the entire preseason game against Seattle. Think PK feels vindicated now that Romo is one of the top quarterbacks in the league?

In his Monday Morning QB on SI.com, King recounts a recent visit with Romo and how impressed he is with his attitude. During a talk with King Romo did his best to demonstrate what he's been working on.

Now Romo was up showing me.

"Before,'' he said, "I'd drop back seven and I'd be looking, looking, looking ... ''

He looked left, center and right in the room, bouncing on his feet, moving forward as he did it, ending up about three yards ahead in this imaginary pocket, throwing to an imaginary receiver on the right.

"I've moved way up. See? I better throw it now or the pocket's gonna collapse on me," he said. "What I was doing was creating pressure where there should be none. When I watched film, I wanted to change that.''

I won't ruin the rest of what Romo said. Just go over there and read the article. It's incredible stuff.

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This is something we knew would happen but it's great to hear nonetheless: Felix Jones is impressing people at camp.

Jones has been electric at times in training camp, showing impressive speed and vision. Running backs coach Skip Peete raved Sunday about a run Jones had made on a draw play three days prior.

"He came through the line, and the safety started filling, and he bounced it out to the left, and no one was there," Peete said. "He got back to the huddle, and I asked him, 'How'd you know where to go? What made you do that?' He said, 'Well, Coach, I just felt the safety, based on the way the receiver was blocking, that I could get outside of that.'"

Jones does admit though that running past people in the NFL will be a bit tougher than it was in college.

“Everybody is fast here,” Jones said. “You got to be on your toes every step. That's probably the biggest thing for me, getting used to the game speed. When you have a defensive lineman running right next to you, that's kind of surprising.

“(In the Southeastern Conference), you might have one or two defensive linemen who can run, not the whole D-line. Here, they are right there in front of you or right beside you.”

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The Cowboys defense is good. It could be great. And the players know that they still have to prove they are the best in league on the field, not just on paper.

The Cowboys’ defense didn’t quite finish No. 1 in the NFL; it had to settle for No. 9. It was a unit, however, that improved dramatically from the season before.

But, "I’m just asking, 'What have we really done?’ " Cowboys defensive end Chris Canty said. "It’s potential. And when it’s potential, that just means you haven’t done it yet."

Well, at least someone gets it.

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Terrell Owens, Jason Witten and Zach Thomas all got the day off yesterday, just for resting purposes. Witten appreciates it, even if he is just 26.

Although Witten is just 26, he appreciated the time off.

Still, he took some ribbing from quarterback Tony Romo.

"He said, 'I guess I got to go to four Pro Bowls to get some time off,’ " Witten recalled with a smile. "But you know what, he is not running out there. He is just sitting throwing and taking a couple of steps. He looked good though."

Owens says that he enjoys the time off, but he has been working hard on conditioning himself even more than he has in the past. Part of that is working out while on vacation in Mexico.

But also credit the beach work he did during a couple of "vacation trips" to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

"I don’t like just laying around all the time in the sun," Owens said. "So I go take me a 20-, 30-minute run and then I go get on the beach and run some routes. The sand moves a little bit, and that helps you coming in and out of those breaks, especially when you get on a hard and smooth surface. Honestly, I can really feel the benefits, because I did a lot of intermediate routes."

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Coach Wade says he needs to see more out of Martellus Bennett.

"He executes the plays; that's the most important thing," Phillips said. "He runs well, his blocking is getting better and he's been a little more inconsistent in catching the ball than I thought he would be, but I think that will come."

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Flozell Adams is dominating people. Imagine that.

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Calvin Watkins names 5 players that are on the bubble.

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A premature roster projection.

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