As a fellow Buckeye leaves the Cowboys, I cannot help but wonder why some fans blame him for his average career in Dallas. After all, it is not as if Carpenter chose not to succeed: Bobby did not go JaMarcus Russell on the Cowboys.
Carpenter was a beast of an outside linebacker at The Ohio State University. Bobby came from good stock, as his dad played for Bill Parcells in New York. Linebackers have the highest success rate of any position in the first round of the NFL draft. Parcells was coaching the Cowboys, Greg Ellis was making the difficult transition to outside linebacker in Parcells’ version of the 3-4, and was complaining (how odd…) about the position switch.
Carpenter was a pass rushing, play making stud in Columbus. He would come off of the edge and terrorize backs of all shapes and sizes. He could even drop into coverage and cause chaos there. He beat the living daylights out of Vince Young in Texas’ championship year.
But Ohio State played a defensive line scheme very similar to that employed by Bill Parcells. The linemen in Columbus were big, strong guys that were nothing more than “dancing elephants” (as Marcus Spears described his role in Parcells’ 3-4). That permitted fast linebackers with a sense for the ball to penetrate without having to engage a tackle, guard, or center with any frequency.
Parcells drafted Bobby to play an outside linebacker spot in his 3-4, but Ellis, despite all of his complaining had other plans. Greg had a very good season, and kept Carpenter on the bench. Carpenter switched positions to inside linebacker during the season, and had his greatest game as a pro in the playoffs against Seattle.
Bill Parcells left that offseason, and with the arrival of the new Wade Phillips 3-4, Bobby became a true square peg trying to fit a round hole. Carpenter was great at evading contact at Ohio State thanks to the defensive line interference. In Phillips’ 3-4, the defensive linemen took on more of an attacking role. Gone were the days of consistently having a 300 pound offensive lineman engaged by a 300 pound defensive lineman.
Now Carpenter is going to linebacker starved St. Louis, to play with fellow Buckeye great, James Laurinaitis. Bobby finds himself in a 4-3 defense again, but Spagnuolo made his mark in the NFL running an attacking style defensive line that disrupts pockets and backfields.
The switch to the 4-3 alignment may be enough to get Carpenter’s career back on track, but the attacking style defensive line may negate that advantage. I would not be surprised, however, if Bobby has a career season and accumulates more sacks than anyone on that defense. After all, that is what made him a first round pick coming out of Columbus.