Last year, it was speedy DeMarcus Ware who got the first call from Valley Ranch.
This year, it's Ohio State's Bobby Carpenter.
The 6-foot-2.5 Carpenter is listed between 252 and 256 pounds, and repeatedly has been clocked between 4.61 and 4.66 -- not blindingly fast, but excellent for a player of his size.
Ware will remain the Cowboys' designated speed rusher off the edge, whereas Carpenter is very effective both when dropping into pass coverage and against the run.
Often overshadowed by teammate A.J. Hawk, Carpenter and middle linebacker Anthony Schlegel teamed with Hawk to form perhaps the nation's best trio of starting linebackers. Carpenter is not a sprinter in the mold of Ware or Detroit draftee Ernie Sims, but he has the proverbial "high motor" and has great pursuit, enabling him to make tackles from one sideline to the other.
Hairstyle aside, Carpenter is a little bit reminiscent of former Steeler/Panther Kevin Greene, another big, tough linebacker who excelled in the 3-4 outside linebacker spot before growing into a Pro Bowl defensive end.
Whether Carpenter grows into a defensive end remains to be seen, but most believe he can get significantly stronger in both his upper and lower body without losing any speed. He is not considered as punishing a tackler as Hawk or Schlegel, but considering how hard those two hit, that's not exactly a stinging indictment. Carpenter closes very quickly, and while he might not put a ball carrier in the intensive care unit, he is a solid tackler who finishes plays.
Carpenter's father, Rob, played for the Houston Oilers and New York Giants, so the pedigree is there. He also is a very smart player, whose understanding of the game allows him the versatility to play inside or outside. While he has the potential to add significant strength, and probably a little more size, he already is very adept at shedding blockers to get to the ball carrier.
In the Dallas defense, Carpenter will play opposite Ware, and could slide into the middle when the Cowboys revert to a 4-3 defensive alignment.
He is a very emotional player who also has the speed and tenacity to contribute significantly on special teams. His toughness, size and versatility make him a prototypical Bill Parcells linebacker.