The Cowboys have taken quite a lot of criticism for drafting injured ILBs in the 2nd round the past two years, mostly by fans. Now after only 3 weeks into the season, Sean Lee is an absolute stud and was unequivocally worth the investment. Cudos to the Cowboys talent evaluating for finding and drafting a guy who has thus far proven to be a high value pick. The Cowboys took a similar amount of heat for repeating their draft value strategy in the very next year. Seemingly a majority of fans couldn't understand why we would draft these linebackers who might have a hard time seeing the field. Heck, Sean Lee was drafted injured, and injured himself his rookie year and many fans were quick to claim he's injury prone. After 3 games of Lee flying all over the field, who still thinks he's injury prone? Thus far he's been the only ILB that has been making plays and many of us can't wait for the debut of the guy who might just be Sean Lee 2.0.
As pointed out several times in analyzing at least this years draft, ILB was the need nobody really talked about. With Brooking's and James's contracts expiring in the same year and neither of them young enough or arguably productive enough to seriously talk about extension, the Cowboys needed to draft their future ILB starters and in a hurry. Last year Sean Lee, in at least one game, showed flashes of the stud he would become. This year, he's showing exactly why he was 1st round talent. With what we've seen of Sean Lee this year contrasted with the 'Keith James' duo, thoughts of two Lee's hitting the field abound.
It may be wishful thinking, but Bruce Carter very well could be another stud like Lee has been so far. The similarities between the two are hard to ignore, and its not just their draft position. Yes, both were injured coming into the draft, but it was basically the same injury. Lee injured his knee, the ACL on his right leg. Carter injured his knee, the ACL on his left leg. Sean has come back 100% and I don't think its a stretch to think Carter can do the same.
What about production? Let's have a refresher on how both of these guys did in college. Sean Lee's college stats were just a bit of foreshadowing for the production he's managed thus far. Lee was a tackling machine in college, through 4 years he totaled 324 stops. In addition he had 10 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 interceptions. He hasn't gotten any sacks so far, but I think undoubtedly it will happen. Carter had similar production in college. Through 4 years he totaled 215 tackles, not quite as good as Lee, but not bad. He also had a penchant for making big plays like Sean Lee did. Carter had 8.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 3 interceptions. He even returned 2 of those INTs for TDs. So, how good were those college performances? Both Carter and Lee were both nominated for the Butkus Award, presented to the nation's top linebacker. Both were evidently considered 1st round talent, and according to nfldraftscout.com, were rated at least top 4 at their position in their respective years. They're even built similarly, both are 6-2 and within 7 pounds of each other. Both have similar 40 times with Carter being a bit faster, and are within 1 rep of each other on the bench press. These are two strong, fast guys. It doesn't seem like much of a stretch to expect Carter to emulate what Lee has managed to do given that
they are the same person they are surprisingly similar.
These thoughts come at a time when Sean Lee's counterparts hardly compare with his numbers. Yes yes, I know, Brooking and James have been splitting time so it would be wrong to expect them to individually match Lee's production. Right, so how's about we combine the two? Together they've managed 12 total tackles, and two PDefs (although science will tell you at least one of Brooking's PDefs were blind luck). That, compared to Sean Lee who has managed 31 tackles, 3 PDefs, and of course 2 interceptions (not to mention a few choice fumble recoveries).
Bruce Carter will debut at some point after the bye and here's hoping he hits the ground running. Even if he merely emulates what Lee did in his rookie year he'd have at least one huge game, and that'd be a welcome change from the lukewarm James-Brooking. Lee is a stud, but he can only be in one place at a time. Imagine if he was in two places at once, and thats what Bruce Carter potentially brings to the table. How will teams run against us when only one Sean Lee is difficult. Will screens remain effective against us when we have two Lees? How many interceptions will we get when we have two Sean Lees floating around ballhawking? Will there be a fumbled ball NOT recovered by Dallas when we have two of him? How many sacks could the two of them potentially create? I, along with everyone here on BTB, eagerly await the face-punching, bone-breaking, dynamic duo of Bruce Lee.