If you judge Bobby Carpenter based on being drafted in the first round, he's a bust.
If you judge Carpenter based on his performance as a nickel linebacker, he hasn't been bad at all.
Teams don't pick players in the first round hoping they'll develop into solid nickel linebackers a few years later. Carpenter hasn't come close to justifying the decision made by Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells to make him the 18th overall pick in the 2006 draft.
But we knew entering the season that Carpenter wasn't a wise first-round pick. We didn't know if he could be a solid contributor to the defense after taking over departed free agent Kevin Burnett's role in the nickel and dime packages.
Carpenter has had his two best performances of the season in the last two weeks. He played a key role in containing future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez in the win over the Atlanta Falcons. Capenter had six tackles and his first sack since his rookie season in the win over the Seattle Seahawks.
"The difference between perception and reality, I won't tell that one," Wade Phillips said when asked about the perception of Carpenter, which is that he's a soft underachiever. "But yeah, he's been solid in a lot of areas and now he's made some plays, and that's what you're looking for in any player. He had to fight to get a role. He's done that."