"Everybody's Watching," screams the front page of this morning's Dallas Morning News' SportsDay.
And it's true, with respect both to the Dallas Cowboys as a whole and, the piece's subject, Bobby Carpenter. The Ohio State product is entering his fourth season with Dallas after being, um, ineffectual in his first three, and a lightning rod of sideways criticism, and that ever-pesky bust label.
As much can be expected in Dallas when, after being dafted in the same year, and in the same round as A.J. Hawk, Ernie Sims and Chad Greenway, you post such forgettable numbers as 35 tackles and 1.5 sacks in three years.
Granted, this has been done in extremely limited time; also, Carpenter has done, by all accounts, everything the Cowboys have asked him. As the article, written by David Moore, points out, 2009 may represent a turning point for Carpenter, who will come into San Antonio next week with "the belief that the coaching staff has finally carved a niche that will allow him to contribute."
That niche will be that of inside linebcaker in nickel and dime situations, a niche that, by Moore's count, could result in Carpenter being on the field for "up to 40 percent of the game." Carpenter, for all his unimpressive numbers, continues to have a mindset to make coaches smile. "No one is tougher on me than myself," Carpenter told Moore. "I come out every day with the desire and the motivation to get better so that I can prove I'm a good player, because I know I am."
Indeed, Carpenter will have an opportunity in 2009 greater than any of his career, with the departure of Kevin Burnett, who filled that position for Dallas in 2008. However, this doesn't mean that anything is being handed to the former first rounder. He will have to stave off third round pick Jason Williams in camp and throughout the season to hold the position--his niche.
"The time is now for Carpenter," Moore continues, and he's absolutely right. Regrdless of work ethic, the "Will this be Carpenter's year?" stories have grown increasingly predictable, seemingly obligatory, around this time of year.
Depending on Carpenter's play in 2009 though--his ability to flourish in his newfound niche--these stories, like the infamous "bust" label, may go away for good.