ESPNDallas.com's position series takes a look at the Dallas Cowboys' linebackers, with special focus on Bruce Carter (who becomes the weakside linebacker in the new 4-3 alignment) and Sean Lee (who will play the middle linebacker spot). Tim MacMahon's belief, which I share and which we have discussed here many times, is that the 4-3 has the potential to make hyper-productive stars out of Carter and Lee... as long as they can stay healthy. Which they've never been able to do even in college, which is why the Cowboys were able to get them in the second rounds of their drafts:
Lee and Carter can be one of the league’s elite linebacker combos. That’s if they can just stay healthy. And that’s a big if for a couple of guys that dropped into the second round because of college knee injuries and have had bad medical luck in their brief NFL careers.
But the hope is the Cowboys have a couple of linebackers who will be sideline-to-sideline, every-down forces for years to come.
If those two stay healthy and the play at Sam is solid, the linebacking corps should be a major strength for the Cowboys this season.
Agreed, and Justin Durant at that strongside linebacker spot should be fine, especially if Lee and Carter are on the field with him and performing the way they can. In fact, the more I look at position groups in the NFC East, the more I like the Cowboys' defense as a whole. I think their starting units are the strongest in the division at defensive line, linebacker and cornerback, and while safety remains a concern, no one in the division looks good at safety. The Cowboys' defensive success this season rests on the ability of the starters to stay healthy, and we saw what happened last year when they couldn't do it. There are legitimate depth concerns in the front seven, and it's hard to predict the kind of charmed season an NFL team has to have in order for all of their starting linebackers and defensive linemen to avoid major injury. But at least as long as they're intact as a unit, there's reason to feel very good about this year's Cowboys defense. Especially the linebackers.