clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Obsessive rantings of a blogger on Ellis/Carpenter/Spencer

This morning I learned that the Greg Ellis/Bobby Carpenter/Anthony Spencer debate is going to be more heated than I thought. I casually posted a critique of the recent complaints in the press by Greg Ellis about the drafting of Spencer. I made note of Ellis’ complaints and pondered if this was the best strategy for him to take. I also noted that Bobby Carpenter hasn’t progressed as fast as was hoped and seems to be a man without a position. The reactions were varied and unexpected. So being a blogger, I decided to take up more of your time on the same subject. A lot more, as you’ll see below.

Let’s start with Bobby Carpenter. Todd Archer in his latest article captured my thinking on Carpenter.  

Subtle jabs at Parcells? Last year, the Cowboys used their first-round pick on Bobby Carpenter, clearly a Bill Parcells guy. He fit what they wanted in a 3-4 linebacker. He can run. He is tough. He is intelligent. And now a year later, we wonder where he will play. Is he an inside linebacker now, strictly playing in passing situations? Is he an outside linebacker? Even he doesn't know.

I don’t think it’s a small thing that Archer notes Carpenter was built more as a Parcells 3-4 outside linebacker – especially on the strong side. A couple of days ago I remarked on the same thing. In the Phillips 34, it appears Wade wants OLB’s who are most notably pass-rushers first. Certainly that’s Anthony Spencer’s forte and he was the guy Wade wanted. Carpenter is more of an all-encompassing linebacker. He has the agility to drop back in coverage, is fairly good about chasing down the ball-carrier, and can rush when asked. But, and this is the key in my opinion, he’s not a top-level, pure-pass rusher.

Now everything I’ve just written about Carpenter is debatable, maybe he has the pass-rushing skills but we just didn’t see it enough last year. Maybe if Parcells would have left him alone at SOLB from the start, by the time Ellis got injured Carpenter would have been ready to take over. All of that is certainly possible. But I’m taking my cues from Wade Phillips.

He said before the draft that they might consider Carpenter at ILB some and see how it goes, he just didn’t know for sure. That was the first clue that Phillips had evaluated the roster and decided that Carpenter might not be the guy to play OLB, or at least be the key guy at the position. If he thought Carpenter was that guy, why would he even mention him moving? At that time, it was still a casual remark. But when the Cowboys traded valuable picks to get back in the first round and get Spencer, it became more real.

On game day, do they really want to go three-deep at OLB on the strong side? Unless one of them is also backing up DeMarcus Ware on the other side, that’s a lot of talent to be stacking up at one position. I think Wade is trying to figure out the best way to use Carpenter’s skills. Obviously, nickel linebacker in the middle would be one and he could be the regular backup middle linebacker, rotating in with Ayodele and James. It would be nice to have a guy who can rush the passer coming from the middle on occasion.

When I look at the roster, and think of game day, it’s all a matter of getting Carpenter on the field. Normally, I might think he could just flat-out win a starting middle linebacker spot. The kid has ability, and the only reason I don’t know about that is because of money. As in the money we just handed out to James and Ayodele. If those guys were - say - in the 3rd or 4th year of a contract, would it be inconceivable that Carpenter beat out one of them – cough {James}?

The next guy to consider is Greg Ellis, and here’s where the whole debate gets tricky. I’m no doctor, so I’m not going to try and judge Ellis’ recovery specifically, by all accounts he’s on schedule. The one thing I will throw in to the mix is that many athletes have said that it took about two years until they felt fully recovered from an Achilles heel injury. Even though they played a year after it happened, they weren’t the same that year. How well Greg Ellis recovers is a huge factor in this equation.

If you accept the fact that Ellis will be fully recovered, then it stands to reason he would be considered the starter. If there’s one thing Ellis knows how to do is rush the passer. His skill set would be a natural fit for the Phillips 34. So if Ellis is the starter, who backs him up? I'm guessing that Anthony Spencer, at minimum, is going to be a backup, so that means it’s either behind Greg Ellis or DeMarcus Ware. I don't think Phillips will pull a Parcells and not even get his first round pick on the field. Suppose it’s behind Ellis, then Carpenter has to move to the other side or the middle. The other possibility is to move Spencer behind Ware, but I would guess they want Ware on the field as much as possible and it might be the elder Ellis who could use the rest more often. They must believe that Ware and Spencer are their pass-rushing duo of the future, so why not line them up that way to start.

If Ellis is healthy, then either Carpenter is moving inside or to the other side, or Spencer is moving to the other side. My guess says that since Ellis might need more rest, and the Cowboys drafted Spencer to be the heir-apparent to Ellis, they might as well start lining up that way. So Carpenter has to move.

On the other hand, if you think that Ellis might struggle coming back from injury, and isn’t ready to assume the starter’s duties at the beginning of the season, then you have an interesting situation. If Ellis isn’t lining up as the starter in the first game, do you start Carpenter or Spencer? I think Wade Phillips has pondered this scenario. From the evidence it looks like Ellis will be back, it’s just a matter of when he’s healthy. So if Phillips thought Ellis would return in some reasonable time frame, then he wouldn’t need to spend his first round pick, and trade some picks to just to get Spencer, if he thought Carpenter was the guy to hold down the fort. I mean, why go after Spencer if he was just going to be backing up Carpenter, and then have to move him once Ellis returns. That’s crazy drafting. Again, it makes me think that Spencer is the heir-apparent, and could be considered a starter if Ellis is unable to return right away.

There’s a 3rd scenario to consider with regards to Ellis, and that’s if the Cowboys really don’t have him in their plans. I know, I hate to bring it up because I personally like Ellis, he’s been a very good player for us for a long time. Just to complete the picture though, what if the Cowboys are pondering the scenario that Ellis won’t play in 2007, for whatever reason. What do they do then? Drafting Spencer absolutely makes sense in that case, and then it’s a question of Spencer vs. Carpenter for the starting job. Now, if the Cowboys were thinking Ellis wouldn’t be back, and were also thinking that Carpenter was the man for the job, then they could have waited to draft a backup to Carpenter, they didn’t have to get first-round talent. Now, if they think Carpenter might be the man, but they aren’t sure, then they would draft Spencer to battle him for the starting spot.

So your probably thinking by now I’ve gone all Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure on you, where in the pivotal scene after his bike is stolen he gathers his friends around and provides clues in an over-the-top, elongated speech that goes on for hours and puts everybody to sleep. Well, I’m a blogger, and that fact alone makes me a part-time narcissist. So when inspired by the diverse reaction to the Ellis/Carpenter/Spencer situation this morning, I did the only narcissistic thing I could do - write my magnum opus on the subject.

But I could’ve just as easily written it this way.

I believe Anthony Spencer was drafted to be the heir-apparent to Greg Ellis. That’s the only reason you spend the capital they did by moving up into the first round and trading their picks. They certainly didn’t draft him to sit behind DeMarcus Ware for the foreseeable future. And they wouldn’t have drafted him at that cost if they thought Bobby Carpenter was the heir-apparent. So in my mind, Spencer is the #2 guy on the strong side, at minimum. If Ellis comes back fully recovered, then Spencer is his backup and Carpenter moves inside or to the other side. If Ellis comes back, but isn’t ready to be the starter, Spencer will assume the role until Ellis is back. They probably don’t want to start Carpenter over there, only to move him once Ellis returns. They got Spencer in the first round; you should always hope that a first round pick can potentially start, excepting some QB’s. So get him some experience until Ellis returns. If for some reason Ellis doesn’t come back at all, then the DeMarcus Ware /Anthony Spencer Era begins early. All roads lead to Spencer either backing up Ellis or starting. And just for the record, I think Spencer stands a chance of winning the starting role even if Ellis is healthy.

Let the bashing begin!

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys