OXNARD, Calif. —
“I think guys are doing it well,” Carter said. “Coaches kind of introduced us a little slow just to get guys the whole grasp of the whole scheme. Now we’re out here just flying around, getting to the ball.”
Carter and Lee joined the Cowboys a year apart and followed similar paths.
Both were second-round draft picks who played quite a bit as rookies but never started. Both earned starting jobs going into their second seasons. When Lee injured his toe last year, Carter took over the defensive play-calling on the field.
Even though he missed the final five games, Carter’s first season as a starter did plenty to help him prepare for a leading role.
“A whole lot more comfortable,” he said. “The more years you play, the more experience you gain, it just makes the game a lot slower for you. Especially for me, a guy coming off an injury.”
Lee has missed at least one game in each of his three seasons after an injury-filled career at Penn State.
Last year’s injury — when he got his foot stuck awkwardly in a pile — came after he had a career-high 21 tackles against Seattle and just a week after he tripled his career best in quarterback pressures with six.
Lee uses the word “urgency” a lot. He shows it in practice, too, chasing running backs and receivers and swiping at the ball long after the whistle blows and griping at referees over where the ball should be spotted in short-yardage work.
He doesn’t disagree that it’s on him and Carter to lead the way.
“We have to get better, and we have to get better fast,” Lee said. “If we want this defense to be good, there are a lot of parts that need to play well. But me and Bruce need to step our game up.”