Cowboys: Car(ter) in the shop
Bruce Carter strained his quadriceps during a high-effort play while chasing Saints running back Khiry Robinson last week. Up to that point, Carter had been putting together a strong performance in a relatively new role at strong side linebacker against the Saints, particularly in coverage (+2.0 grade and two passes defended).
The Cowboys have only played three or more linebackers on 44% of their snaps this year, so starters Rolando McClain and Justin Durant will continue to get the bulk of the work, but a pair of former fourth-round picks – Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber – should also see their workloads increase.
As one might expect with a rookie, Hitchens has been up and down. He ‘leads’ Cowboys linebackers with three missed tackles on the year, but has also made seven tackles (four qualifying as stops) in his 39 snaps against the run. One of Wilber’s strengths seems to be rushing the passer, which he does on 44.1% of passing snaps. He hasn’t been as effective as Carter, as measured by pass rushing productivity, but has still mustered a sack and QB hit in 34 pass rush snaps.
If Durant and McClain can stay healthy and take care of coverage duties, the Cowboys appear to have an adequate replacement for Carter with the combination of Wilber and Hitchens.