Linebacker logjam?

For the first time in a long time the Dallas Cowboys have the kind of dilemma coaches like to have.

With the return of Bruce Carter, who missed the last three games with a quadriceps strain, the Cowboys will have their full complement of linebackers for the first time since Week 4, which creates something of an issue in the nickel defense.

When Carter, Justin Durant and Rolando McClain have been healthy, Carter and Durant have been the nickel linebackers. Now the Cowboys might have a choice as to which two to keep on the field. The decision might not start with Monday’s game with the Washington Redskins.

“They’re just trying to work me in right now, special teams, whatever it is,” said Carter, who was limited in his return in Thursday’s practice. “I’m just trying to get my legs back underneath me and we’ll see how it plays out for the game.”

Keeping their top three linebackers healthy has been an issue the last couple of seasons and didn’t start out well in May when Sean Lee was lost for the season because of a knee injury.

Durant injured a groin in the season opener and missed the next two games. McClain injured a groin in Week 2 and missed the following game. Carter was hurt in the Week 4 win against the New Orleans Saints.

When all three have been active for games, Durant and Carter were the nickel linebackers with McClain playing only in the base defense.

“No question we want guys to be healthy,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We want that competition to be healthy as well. The biggest thing is to see where Bruce is.”

Durant leads the Cowboys with 51 tackles, according to the coaches’ breakdown. McClain is second and leads the Cowboys with two interceptions. Despite missing three games, Carter is fourth in tackles with 29.

The coaches said his performance against the Saints might have been the best game he has played. He had six tackles and two pass breakups, one leading to a Durant interception.

He said it is a good thing he does not need to play every snap immediately in his return, “but my competitive nature is I want to be out there fighting with my teammates,” Carter said. “It’s a great thing to do in this position, but it’s nothing I want to rely on. I definitely want to be out there and playing.”

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