Thursday, June 18, 2009

DMN Blog: Cowboys are counting on Bobby Carpenter

By Tim MacMahon/Blogger Bio

It's easy to make wisecracks about Bobby Carpenter. He's a first-round pick who hasn't panned out. He wears his blond hair in a pony tail and has been tagged with the mocking nickame of "Barbie" by his teammates. And his ESPN appearances-to-NFL production ratio is ridiculously out of whack.

Carpenter probably will never silence his sarcastic critics around these parts. But, for the first time under Wade Phillips, he has a legitimate chance to contribute to the Cowboys' defense.

With Kevin Burnett gone to San Diego, the nickel linebacker job is Carpenter's to lose. The fact that the Cowboys didn't make much effort to re-sign Burnett can be taken as a vote of confidence in Carpenter.

His primary competition is third-round pick Jason Williams, an amazing athlete who has miles to go mentally before the coaches could feel comfortable putting him on the field for third downs. Sixth-rounder Stephen Hodge is a darkhorse, but his development was slowed by an injury that kept him off the field for most of the off-season practices. Keith Brooking wants a chance to compete, but he's better suited to be a two-down player at this point of his career.

Carpenter is considered a finesee player, but that's fine for a linebacker who will spend most of his time in pass coverage. He held his own against arguably the league's best tight end tandem during OTAs and minicamp. Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett got open occasionally against Carpenter, but he at least looked like he belonged on the field against them.

"Bobby Carpenter has done really well in this camp," said Phillips, who made similar comments last summer in Oxnard. "He's done everything we've asked and more. He's looked really good when he's gone in there and done things. I think for Bobby, he's just got to do it in ballgames for us.

"We'll see what happens, but I have a good feeling about it."