Keith Brooking and Bobby Carpenter: Are They the Answer?

The Cowboys' inside linebacker position has seen a bit of a makeover from last season. Keith Brooking is replacing Zach Thomas, providing more size next to strongside backer Bradie James. Also, his experience in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme could prove to be a valuable asset to this unit right away.

On Friday, we got a good glimpse of Bobby Carpenter's new role as the nickel/dime linebacker. Taking over for the departed Kevin Burnett, Carpenter's athleticism showed against Oakland. He had a really nice pass breakup, pressured the quarterback on blitzes, and simply looked like he knew what he was doing on the field.

When Carpenter substitutes in on those passing downs, he often replaces Brooking. Although, we did get to see both Brooking and Carpenter on the field together late in the second quarter.

The breakdown below follows each snap played by Brooking and Carpenter in Friday night's game against the Raiders. Brooking started the game at the weakside linebacker position and played into the second quarter. He even lined up on the field goal block unit. Carpenter came in when the Raiders faced their first third down. With rookie Stephen Hodge out and not getting playtime, Carpenter played into the fourth quarter until Matt Stewart took over. Carpenter also starts on the coverage and return units for both kickoffs and punts.

Make the jump for the breakdown.

Note: Instead of declaring strong or weakside LB, I wrote left (LILB) or right (RILB) to show where they were lined up on the field. Brooking plays the weakside, while Bradie James plays strong. When Carpenter comes in on the second-team defense, he replaces James on the strong side. Of course, their jobs vary in situational formations.

First Quarter

First Raiders Possession

1st and 10 from Raider 32: Brooking (LILB) covered short zone. Assisted Alan Ball on tackle.

1st and 10 from Raider 43: Brooking (RILB) pushed Igor towards run off left tackle, tried to club ball from RB

2nd and 8 from Raider 45: Brooking (RILB) read QB, then pass-rushed

3rd and 8 from Raider 45: Carpenter (LILB) next to James, covered short zone to the left

1st and goal from Dallas 8: Brooking (RILB) blitzed around James and shot between RT and HB while James covered TE in flat. Got hands in the air, but QB completed pass.

2nd and goal from Dallas 1: Brooking (RILB) right behind Igor, shed C to get around the left end of the line. Holding penalty on the Raiders.

2nd and goal from Dallas 12: Brooking (RILB) man on RB, Anthony Spencer tackled FB for a loss.

3rd and goal from Dallas 14: Brooking (RILB) against 3WR and TE, pushed TE outside, but pass went to WR for 10.

4th and goal (field goal try): Brooking played right DE

 

Next Possession

1st and 10 from Oak 22: Brooking (RILB) twisted with James at snap on a blitz between C and G. Sped through unscathed and sacked QB fro 11-yard loss.

2nd and 21 from Oak 10: Carpenter (ROLB) in dime, rushed around LT but RB ran right.

3rd and 8 from Oak 23: Carpenter (RILB) read QB, then rushed in and shed the FB just before QB completed pass for first down.

1st and 10 from Oak 38: Brooking (LILB) lined up over C and blitzed. Looked good but QB broke free for 17.

1st and 10 from Dallas 49: Brooking (RILB) read play action off of FB block. Incomplete pass deep.

2nd and 10 from Dallas 49: Brooking (LILB). Pass deflected at line by Jay Ratliff.

3rd and 10 from Dallas 49: Brooking (LILB) covered the middle zone against the TE.

 

Next Possession

1st and 10 from Oak 37: Carpenter (LILB) was double-teamed by RT and C as RB ran left for big gain.

Second Quarter

1st and 10 from Dallas 17: Carpenter (LILB) blocked by RT as run went opposite direction.

2nd and 8 from Dallas 15: Carpenter (RILB) in coverage, ran across field to help push WR out of bounds.

1st and goal from Dallas 6: Carpenter (RILB) made initial contact on run up middle, slowing up RB by wrapping his arm around waist.

2nd and goal from Dallas 4: Carpenter (LILB) covered FB in flat while QB hit TE in back of end zone for TD.

 

Next Possession

1st and 10 from Oak 22: Carpenter (RILB) in coverage, penalty on Raiders.

1st and 20 from Oak 12: Carpenter (LILB) in man on slot. Pass went elsewhere.

2nd and 7 from Oak 25: Carpenter (RILB) moved up to line to blitz, but RB did a good job picking him up.

3rd and 7 from Oak 25: Carpenter (RILB) covered his zone. Gerald Sensebaugh laid a lick on a WR for the incompletion.

 

Next Possession

1st and 10 from Oak 6: Carpenter (RILB) ran right to cover RB, then read QB's eyes and checked back to the middle where he almost jumped high enough to tip pass.

1st and 10 from Oak 25: Carpenter (LILB) blocked by C on draw to left, but Raiders called for holding.

1st and 20 from Oak 15: Carpenter (LILB) faked blitz, then got hands up on delayed pass rush.

2nd and 20 from Oak 15: Carpenter (LILB) and Brooking (RILB) in 4-2-5 vs. 3-WR set. Brooking made tackle on run left after RB gained 7.

3rd and 13 from Oak 22: Brooking (LILB) and Carpenter (RILB) sandwiched DeMarcus Ware in a 3-3-5 vs. 3-WRs. Carpenter and Ware dropped into coverage while Brooking blitzed and caused pressure up middle. Carpenter had good coverage on a WR.

 

Next Possession

1st and 10 from Oak 26: Carpenter (LILB) shed a block to make tackle on run left.

 

Third Quarter:

1st and 10 from Oak 20: Carpenter (RILB) pushed down to ground by C for a 4-yard run up the middle.

2nd and 6 from Oak 24: Carpenter (LILB) on a delayed blitz, got around RB and got hands in QBs face. Pass fell incomplete.

3rd and 6 from Oak 24: Carpenter (RILB) lined up outside TE on 3-2-5 vs. 3-WR set, rushed QB and had nice inside move on RB. Unfortunately, a penalty on Mike Mickens gave the Raiders a first down.

1st and 10 from Oak 29: Carpenter (LILB) rushed QB up middle but got pushed to ground by RB.

1st and 10 from 50: Carpenter (LILB) twisted right on blitz while Jason Williams came in free behind him to hit QB.

2nd and 10 from 50: Carpenter (LILB) read QB, screen pass went away from for a 20-yard gain.

1st and 10 from Dallas 30: Carpenter (RILB) shed a blocker as a run to right went for 9.

2nd and 1 from Dallas 21: Carpenter (LILB) before snap directed J.Williams to cover right zone while he took the short middle. Pass went left.

1st and goal from Dallas 2: Carpenter (LILB) shed two blockers but RB ran left away from Patrick Watkins for TD.

 

Next Possession

1st and 10 from: Oak 31: Carpenter (RILB) got by LG in a heavy offensive set to get in on pile for short gain.

1st and 5 from Oak 36: Carpenter (RILB) followed TE in motion and then covered him down the field.

1st and 10 from Oak 31: Carpenter (RILB) couldn't get free of LT on a run left.

2nd and 8 from Oak 33: Carpenter (LILB) read QB, then rushed and hit QB just before throw.

1st and 10 from Dallas 49: Carpenter (LILB) covered middle zone but pass went deep.

1st and goal from Dallas 1: Carpenter (RILB) in on tackle to stop RB.

2nd and goal from Dallas 1: Carpenter (RILB) blocked by fullback but RB scored quickly on an inside run to the right. In this goalline formation, next to Carpenter were J.Williams (MLB) and Matt Stewart (LILB).

 

Next Possession

1st and 10 from Oak 27: Carpenter (LILB) pushed away FB to help close hole.

2nd and 3 from Oak 30: Carpenter (RILB) double-teamed by C and LG while J. Williams got tackle.

1st and 10 from Oak 40: Carpenter (LILB) covered TE in man.

1st and 10 from Dallas 33: Carpenter (LILB) took on RG, shed him, and made tackle.

2nd and 7 from Dallas 30: Carpenter (LILB) moved up to line to blitz, then shot between RT and RG, evaded FB and got to QB just as he got pass off.

1st and 10 from Dallas 19: Carpenter (RILB) spun off LG to make tackle on run to his side. Raiders flagged for holding.

Fourth Quarter

1st and 20 from Dallas 29: Carpenter (RILB) blanketed TE in flat.

2nd and 20 from Dallas 29: Carpenter (RILB) communicated coverage to others as Raiders had two TEs on left side. He covered the inside TE, who ran a post. Had great coverage and great play on the ball to knock pass incomplete.

3rd and 20 from Dallas 29: Carpenter (RILB) lined up outside OLB and covered RB out of the backfield.

Matt Stewart took over after this possession.

Coach Phillips may have carved a good niche for Carpenter in this defense. When coming in during passing situations, he has shown good coverage skills and enough speed to get to the quarterback on blitzes. Playing behind James keeps him on the offense's strong side, which will expose him to the run more often. That's something we need to keep an eye on during the remainder of the preseason. In this game, he looked to have a good command of the defense and was quick to pursue the ball carriers.

Brooking snapped right in with Coach Phillips' defense. He played with confidence, looked pretty quick and was tenacious. With him next to James and Carpenter coming in on passing downs, this makeover done at inside linebacker could be an improvement for the defense.

For another look at Carpenter's play-by-play against Oakland, check out Musiccitynorm's most excellent FanPost.

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