James and Brooking will play most of the snaps at inside linebacker with Sean Lee expected to miss at least one game, but the Cowboys need to get some young legs involved, especially in obvious passing situations.
Rookie linebacker Bruce Carter, a second-round pick who didn’t play a defensive snap in his NFL debut last week, will play in certain packages. Second-year safety Barry Church could also see playing time at linebacker in certain nickel and dime packages.
“You’re reading my mail there. Andy Reid give you some mail back?” Ryan joked when asked about Church playing some linebacker in passing situations. “No, you have to do things like that, absolutely. You might have to play dime guys. The thing I love about Barry Church is he’s a smart guy. He’s a big, physical guy. He can play multiple positions. He can be a good guy.”
The Cowboys will be cautious about throwing too much at Carter, who spent the first six weeks of the season on the nonfootball-injury list while rehabbing a knee injury suffered at North Carolina. But his ability to cover was one of the primary reasons they spent a second-round pick on Carter despite his injury issues.
“I thought he [could be] one of the better linebackers in coverage in this league because the kid can fly,” Ryan said. “The thing is he’s coming off of a knee, he’s had no preseason, this is a lot of new things. Again, we’re going to put him in there where he can be successful. We can’t give him everything. He’ll have to earn that as he goes. But he’s going to be a good football player, there’s no question.”