It’s way too early to start throwing around praise for any Dallas Cowboys defensive group since we haven’t seen them play a down in their new Tampa 2 scheme yet, but the Cowboys linebackers might be the best group in the NFL. Bruce Carter, Justin Durant and Sean Carter have all the makings to be one of the premier playmaking set of linebackers in the league.
Actually, it’s not that much of a stretch from last year’s unit, who I felt was the best group in the NFL in the 3-4. However, the Cowboys new 4-3 alignment doesn’t change much since they still have two of the best playmakers at the position in Carter and Lee.
Lee was having a monster season last year before the toe injury cost him the rest of his season. Now playing middle linebacker for the Cowboys in Monte Kiffin’s defense, Lee should have less traffic to sift through on his way to making a play. And no matter what alignment the Cowboys are in, nothing takes away from Lee’s top notch instincts and mind for the game, so taking away bigger bodies in front of him will make him an even better player.
When it comes to Bruce Carter, perhaps no one benefits more from the switch to the 4-3. Carter was coming on in 2012, his first year as a starter, before an elbow injury ended his season prematurely. He was becoming a leader for the Dallas defense when his injury occurred but last season proved the Cowboys had a great young player in Carter. This season should be a monster year for Carter as he moves into the playmaking spot at weakside linebacker in the 4-3 alignment. The size, speed and athleticism of Carter is a perfect fit in Kiffin’s Tampa 2 and everyone around the NFL believes Carter is primed for a huge year.
Dallas also signed Justin Durant in the off-season to play the strongside linebacker spot. Durant is the only starter who has experience in the 4-3, which should help ease the transition for the Dallas defense. Durant is a sure tackler and is coming off of his best year as a pro; a solid player and a great pickup for the Cowboys this off-season.
However, as good as the Cowboys starting linebackers are, they also have the depth needed to be one of the best units in the league. Ernie Sims has experience in the 4-3 and played well for the Cowboys last year when they picked him up off the streets. Alex Albright also played well when pressed into duty for the Cowboys last year and I believe he is more than capable of being a starter should anything happen to one of the starters during the season.
The Dallas Cowboys have one of the best linebacking groups in the NFL and they are good enough to rival the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers groups that might also be considered the best in the league. There’s no question that Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman are the top combo at linebacker in the NFL but the rest of the league is about to find out just how good of a combination Carter and Lee can be this year.
I know it doesn’t mean much right now but the Cowboys might have the best set of linebackers in the NFL.