Bruce Carter's moment of truth

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
10:00
AM ET
One of the many enduring images of the 2013 season for the Dallas Cowboys came from linebacker Bruce Carter.

The weak side linebacker was chasing San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead in pass coverage and lost him for two scores in the loss. It seemed Carter, whom the Cowboys had high hopes for, had regressed in 2013.

It wasn't so much pass coverage where Carter struggled, he also wasn't consistent against the run. Carter just didn't have a solid season.

Carter was benched for a time in favor of veteran Ernie Sims. When Carter regained the starting job, he was eventually thrust into the role of calling plays on defense when Sean Lee went down to a neck injury.

At the start of the season, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin thought Carter would be a solid player to pair with Lee, the quarterback of the defense. Instead, Carter's inability to make plays against the pass, in a pass-happy NFL, hurt him.

On some plays, Carter reacted too late in picking up running backs or tight ends on pass plays.

The Cowboys want to lock up some of their young players. Carter's struggles in 2013 gives the team pause.

Yes, the Cowboys gave Lee a new contract, despite his injury history, but at least he's performed at a high level. Carter has not.

In 2014, Carter most likely will be the projected starter at weak side linebacker, but it comes with an asterisk.

DeVonte Holloman played well early in the season before a spinal contusion sidelined him for seven weeks, and showed the coaches something in the regular season finale against Philadelphia.

The draft could also bring another linebacker to the roster to push Carter into making the plays the coaches believe he can produce. Carter is fast, smart and physical, he just doesn't do it on a consistent basis.

The Cowboys can't give Carter a new contract based on the performance they saw in 2013. If anything, he's going to earn his money in 2014.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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