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One rookie starts; another rookie sits

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One rookie is drafted in the late rounds, and ends up being a starter. Another rookie is the 1st round pick, and ends up being inactive for the first game. That's the story of Cowboys FS Pat Watkins and LB Bobby Carpenter. This will probably set off a wave of regret and charges of a wasted pick among some Cowboy faithful, but that would be terribly short-sighted. Bobby Carpenter's story has yet to be written. Circumstance and the number's game have relegated him to the back page for now, but the lesson of Bradie James shouldn't be forgotten.

Linebacker Bobby Carpenter, the 18th player selected in the 2006 draft, will be inactive for the Cowboys' season opener Sunday against Jacksonville.

Linebacker Oliver Hoyte, an undrafted free agent, will play.

Hoyte has been deemed more valuable because of his production on special teams, especially the kickoff and punt coverage units.

I can see it now, an UDFA LB makes the 45-man active roster while our 1st round pick is inactive, this means Carpenter is a bust. Hardly. Hoyte is a player who has excelled at special teams, so he gets the nod early in the season. Hoyte is also playing at his natural position, inside linebacker. Carpenter is learning a new position that is not as interchangeable with his old one as some might think.
The Cowboys switched Carpenter five days into training camp, in part, because Greg Ellis adapted so quickly to linebacker after spending the early years of his career at defensive end and because veteran Al Singleton proved to be a capable backup on the outside.

In the 4-3 defense, the outside linebacker lines up over the tight end or on his outside shoulder, where speed and quickness is an advantage. In the 3-4, Carpenter must consistently take on guards who outweigh him by 50 pounds.

"The reads are a lot different," [Carpenter] said. "If you take one false step, it can take you completely out of the play."

Carpenter needs two things; time to learn how to play in the middle in a 3-4 defense, and more strength and weight to better handle the job of clashing with the behemoths that play guard in this league. Let's hold off on judging this for a while, and remember Bradie James.

Meanwhile, all congratulations should go to safety Pat Watkins, a kid that worked extremely hard in camp and let his natural ability shine. Watkins might be one of those players down the road that will draw comments like "How did he slip to the 5th round"? We'll know the answer; everybody thought he was too tall to play safety. Maybe we should just give him the name Pat "Too Tall" Watkins. Has a team ever had two players nicknamed "Too Tall"?

Watkins is expected to start at free safety Sunday in the season opener at Jacksonville. The rookie's rise becomes more fairy tale-like as he returns to his home state for his NFL debut. Not a bad makeup call for what he thought was a draft-day slight.


Although coach Bill Parcells said the playing time at free safety will be spread around, Watkins has worked with the first team all week and said secondary coach Todd Bowles told him he would start. The coaching staff wanted to upgrade the position in the off-season and has given Watkins every opportunity to win the job. He started the final three preseason games, replacing last year's starter, Keith Davis.

Watkins offers more range and speed than Davis.