Carter's starting spot might not be secure

OXNARD, Calif. -- The more Rolando McClain impresses, the more Bruce Carter might be fighting for playing time.

It was apparent leading up to the first preseason game that the Dallas Cowboys were doing what they could to get McClain first-team snaps at middle linebacker with Justin Durant moving to the weak-side spot occupied by Carter.

When McClain pulled up lame for a few days because of a case of knee tendinitis, those plans went on hold. McClain returned to practice Monday and performed well in the two practices against the Oakland Raiders, his former team.

"It's amazing how players respond to competition for their job and for playing time," Garrett said. "So, Rolando needs to keep growing and developing every day, but at the end of this thing, we're going to decide who our best three linebackers are and figure out where they should play. We've got to give guys opportunities to play in different spots as we go through this process. If he shows us in practice and a game that he deserves to be one of them, we're going to figure out how to do it."

Garrett loaded praise on Durant, who has played mostly middle linebacker and had his best practice Wednesday. He also said he is "very happy" with strong-side linebacker Kyle Wilber, and gave notice to Anthony Hitchens and DeVonte Holloman.

Asked about Carter's camp, Garrett was lukewarm. In the last two practices Carter took turns in pass-rush drills as an outside rusher. He's also been practicing on a lot of the special teams' units.

"Bruce has done some good things," Garrett said. "I think Bruce like the other guys needs to be a consistent player day in and day out. I think he is getting more comfortable in the scheme and he is certainly in the mix of it. He has got a lot of ability. He's got a lot of strengths. We have been using him as a rusher a bit more. He does that well. Again, you try to figure what the guys do well and who the best ones are and put them out there and give them a chance to do what they do best. Be good at things that happen a lot in games. It's our job to make sure to give them a chance to do those things."

A year ago, Carter was viewed as a foundational piece in the Cowboys' transition to the 4-3 scheme. This year he might be a reserve.

"There are a lot of ways to do this and we've just got to figure out who the best three guys are and who deserves the playing time," Garrett said. "We'll make those decisions as we go."