- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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(Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2012.)
NAME: Bobby Carpenter
2011 STATS: 16 games (3 starts), 29 total tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defensed -- with Lions
INJURY STATUS: No known injuries
CHANCE OF MAKING 53-MAN ROSTER: 75%
WHY HE SHOULD MAKE IT: Carpenter could be slated for a more significant role in the defense than many expected when he was signed in April. In organized team activities, Carpenter saw the majority of his reps with the group of players expected to make up the core of the defense. The former first-round pick has bounced around teams in his six-year NFL career, but is considered a better than average coverage linebacker. This could earn Carpenter a role in sub packages.
WHY HE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT: The player who is most likely to push Carpenter for playing time on defense is 2012 first-round pick Dont'a Hightower. In the team's base defense, Hightower could eventually slide into a role as the strong-side linebacker. Carpenter saw reps at that spot in organized team activities, but over the long term, the team likely would prefer to use Hightower there, which would allow last season's "Sam," Rob Ninkovich, to shift back to defensive end. If Carpenter also cannot secure a role in sub packages over Hightower or another player, then he will have to fight for a job on special teams, where there is a wealth of competition.
CLOSEST COMPETITION: LB Tracy White, LB Jeff Tarpinian, LB Niko Koutouvides