Heading into the 2013 season, it appeared that the Cowboys were set at linebacker. They had their three starters, only the backups were question marks. Sean Lee was the man in the middle, Bruce Carter was supposed to excel as the weakside 'backer after a very promising 2012, and free agent Justin Durant was cast as the solid veteran on the strongside. As the season played out, a new narrative formed. Lee was great until he got hurt, again. Carter under-performed in a major way. And Durant was serviceable at times, a liability at others.
So even though defensive line and safety are mentioned as the big needs on that side of the ball, the linebacking corps still has some things to prove.
Sean Lee will definitely return as a starter, but his injury-plagued seasons are starting to cast doubt on his future. So much so that when he signed an extension with Dallas prior to 2013, it was structured in such a way that injuries played a major part in his compensation. In any case, he is still the main man.
Not so Bruce Carter, who had a major fall from grace in 2013 after impressing everyone in 2012. Is he truly not suited to play the Will spot, even though it seems ideal for him? He has to put it together in his second go-around, or the Cowboys will have to make a move. Speaking of making moves, will Justin Durant compete for a starter's spot or has he been beaten out by Kyle Wilber? Wilber had been languishing as an OLB/DE in the Cowboys defenses, but really made a mark at the end of 2013 when he had to play at the Sam spot because of injuries to others.
Waiting in the wings will be second-year player DeVonte Holloman, who showed playmaking ability in the 2013 preseason, then capped it with a great game when he was forced to play in the season finale. Rounding out the current group is Orie Lemon.
Out of that group, who would you start? The easiest answer is Lee, Carter and Durant again. Based on performance in 2013 though, Wilber would supplant Durant. And where does Holloman fit in all this? Ryan Shazier was brought in on a pre-draft visit. Are the Cowboys thinking about getting someone to compete with Carter?
In 2013, the Cowboys thought they were set at linebacker. In 2014, it's Sean Lee and the rest. Who ya got where?