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First Look: Cowboys LB Bruce Carter And The Rob Ryan Defense

Bruce Carter gets some practice to be the ultimate scheme-diverse weapon for Rob Ryan, if he's completely healthy.
Bruce Carter gets some practice to be the ultimate scheme-diverse weapon for Rob Ryan, if he's completely healthy.

The newest Dallas Cowboy is Bruce Carter, second round pick from the University of North Carolina. Dave gave us the skinny on why a talent like Bruce Carter was available in the second round, ACL injuries are always going to be a concern.  However, if he does get a clean bill of health, he could be a huge addition to the defense that will now be led by Rob Ryan. Once again, the War Room drove Cowboys fans a little bonkers with the phone activity. Many people were screaming for a trade down with so many of their expected targets still available. Kenrick Ellis, Brandon Harris, Ben Ijalana were all requested, but the pick came down to a player thought to be a third round target.

Consider this draft pick Sean Lee 2.0. An injured linebacker that showed a tremendous skill during his collegiate career. With Lee, the Cowboys selected a heat-seeking missile with a knack for diagnosing plays at the snap. In Carter they selected a heat-seeking missile with uncanny strength. The big hits will be coming when Bruce Carter is on the field.

Everyone is having trouble figuring out exactly what the Cowboys plan to do with Carter once he does get on the field. Is he an inside linebacker, or will he rush from the outside opposite DeMarcus. My train of thought immediately went to, there must be a reason for this. New defensive head coach, ultra-athletic talent at the linebacker position... let's check on how Rob Ryan uses his players.

I went to one of my favorite Fan Posters, Chandus, for the skinny. In his post "The Shematic Advantage of Having a Ryan", he details the various ways Ryan disguises his pressure points. Chandus is simply one of the best I've come across at explaining fronts and diagnosing usage. Keep Carter in mind when reading these descriptions.

Defensive alignments:

When we talk about a defense that shifts so much between even, uneven and unexisting fronts, the first thing that you have to do is identify the DLineman and LBs, and I went with a very simple line of thought: if he has a hand down, he's a DLineman. Yeah, I know, I'm not saying something new, but when you see Rogers surrounded by nothing but LBs and a LB (usually Roth) puts his hand on the ground, being the only DLineman, you're seeing something complex and you just try to simplify.

Unannounced blitzers:

This is another area were Ryan likes to play with mirrors to hide the points of attack of rushers, but there's a common denominator: Ryan likes to rush from the inside with delayed rushes from the ILB, or Safeties and CBs stacked behind a DLineman, in one snap they may lineup in this formation and go out in coverage and in the next snap lineup again and rush the QB.

Ryan employs so many variations of packages that you'd have to assume there was a prototype player that he craved and Jerry Jones went out and got him. I won't borrow much more, because it's such an enlightening piece you should read it and it's follow up, "The Schematic Advantage to Having a Ryan 2". For now, we'll just take for granted that Ryan will be able to use him correctly, follow the jump to see how the experts looked at Carter before the draft.


-- Rick Gosselin's #65 ranked player

-- ranked #83 Overall, #5 at the position (WILB)

-- Wes Bunting, National Football Post: #62 Overall, #5 at the position (OLB)

 One of the more gifted athletes you're going to see at the position. Possesses a long, athletic-looking frame and is at his best when asked to click and close and make plays in pursuit. Showcases great explosion once he locates the football and quickly is able to get from point A to point B. Exhibits impressive length and range when asked to break down and wrap up on contact. At times will overrun his man, but for the most part is able to wrap up and get the ball carrier to the ground. Possesses above-average natural anchor strength for a guy his size. However, he isn't real violent into blocks. Doesn't exhibit a real snap/pop from his lower half, isn't a real impressive puncher and looks content to simply anchor instead of using his length — which he extends well — in order to shed and try to make a play off his frame.

Exhibits impressive fluidity and balance in his drop, cleanly getting out of his breaks and generating a burst for himself toward the football. Definitely has the ability to turn and run down the seam with NFL-caliber tight ends, as he's consistently asked to line up over the slot in zone coverage, holding up pretty well vs. college receivers. However, the biggest knock on him is his inability to quickly react to the football. Isn't real instinctive, doesn't consistently trust what he sees and rarely gets an early jump on the pass. Puts himself in position to make plays on the football, but is slow to get his head around in the pass game and adjust to the throw.

However, has a real savvy for blocking kicks, is explosive, can cleanly change directions and does a great job dropping his pad level and accelerating after the football. Could have a real impact as a special teams guy early in the career.

Impression: A gifted athlete who has the makings of a starting weakside backer in the NFL. But I do have some questions about his instincts, which could end up holding him back from ever becoming a real impact player at the next level. However, tore his ACL toward the end of the year and is now a major medical risk.

-- ranked #51 overall, #4 at the position(OLB)

-- ranked #43 overall, #5 at the position(OLB)

- Rob Rang's profile:

Read & React: Generally does a nice job in reading his keys. Aggressively attacks the line of scrimmage and underneath routes, often breaking on underneath passes before the quarterback has even released the ball. Is so aggressive that he can be susceptible to good play-action. Only average ability to locate the football, but pursues hard and has fine closing skills due to his explosiveness.

Run defense: Aggressive in meeting, greeting and discarding blocks against the run. Has the lateral agility and vision to elude blockers and makes plays at the line of scrimmage. Also shows some explosiveness in his upper body with his ability to stack and shed blocks. Rare straight-line speed and good agility to avoid tripping up through the trash. Chases hard laterally and downfield in pursuit.

Pass defense: Provides a good initial pop to the tight end and has the agility and speed to trail closely when in man coverage. Gains good depth on his drop. Changes directions fluidly and has rare straight-line speed. Reacts aggressively to the movement of the quarterback, showing good route recognition and a burst to close on the ball. Can be beaten with good play-action due to his over-aggression.

Tackling: Possesses legitimate explosiveness as a hitter. Generates great momentum in only a few steps and can deliver highlight reel collisions. Generally a reliable open-field tackler, but sometimes drops his shoulder for the big hit and fails to wrap up securely, resulting in some missed tackles. Also has a tendency to arrive on the scene so fast that he's a bit out of control, overrunning the play slightly. Generally athletic and strong enough to make the lunging tackle anyway.

Pass Rush/Blitz: Generates good speed off the edge as a stand-up blitzer. Typically relies on his speed to run around the offensive lineman, showing good flexibility and agility in doing so. Gives blockers an explosive pop to disengage from blocks, but has yet to develop a variety of pass rush moves or the hand technique to fight through once they've latched on to him.

Intangibles: Underwent ACL reconstruction surgery on his left knee on Dec. 14, 2010 and may not be available to work out for scouts before the draft. Prior to the injury he was recognized as a workout warrior. Reportedly has been timed at 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, and owning a 40.5-inch vertical jump and a 440-pound max bench press, 605-pound squat and a power-clean of 374 pounds. Special teams demon for North Carolina in 2008. Led the country with five blocked kicks, including four punts. Blocked eight kicks for his career.

-- Mocking The Draft ranked #42


Bruce Carter vs Florida State '09

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