The Dallas Cowboys haven’t made the playoffs since 2009.

The Dallas Cowboys haven’t made the playoffs since 2009.

Havelock native Bruce Carter, who was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, hasn’t sniffed the postseason. Heading into his fourth season with the Cowboys, Carter wants that to change.

“I want to make it to the playoffs and go deep into the playoffs,” Carter said. “I don’t want to be at home in January and February. I want to still be playing football. That’s what really matters.”

Carter departed for training camp Sunday in Oxnard, Calif.

The 6-foot-2, 246-pound linebacker is moving into veteran status, meaning his responsibilities are increasing.

Last season, he tallied 96 tackles and had two sacks. Still, the Cowboys finished 8-8 and were second in the NFC East.

Carter is expected to start at linebacker, play on special teams, and be a leader on defense.

“It’s a lot of responsibility. I’m basically leading a group of men and have to tell them to do certain things,” Carter said. “There’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s a challenge I am looking forward to. I can’t wait.”

The Cowboys’ defense lost DeMarcus Ware and 2013 Pro Bowl selection Jason Hatcher. With not many big-name stars returning, Carter has his own personal expectations.

“I want to get to that Pro Bowl,” he said. “That’s something I have in my mind and something I’ve been working to do. I’m going to go out there and play my game and be productive.”

Carter said his offseason went well, including workouts and organized team activities.

His statistics and productivity have increased each season. In three seasons, Carter has 129 tackles.

“For me, I just have to be the best player I can,” Carter said. “With that, comes being a good leader, making plays and being productive. I think I am going to have a great year.”

Carter notched a season-high 12 tackles against New Orleans last season and had 11 against Washington. He had at least seven tackles in three other games.

“I’ve gained a lot of experience playing in the league,” Carter said. “You have your ups and downs, but the main thing, in order to be a great player, is consistency.

“Once you can be that consistent player and be reliable, you can go as far as you want to go. I think that’s where I am in my stage and career.”

Carter is hoping to make an impact by rushing the passer and dropping into coverage.

“I want to do both. I want to get sacks and interceptions,” he said. “I want to stack up that stat sheet and be productive for the team.”

The Cowboys ranked dead last in total defense last season. They allowed 27 points per game. While they didn’t make any significant acquisitions, Carter said they want some redemption. Rod Marinelli takes over as the defensive coordinator.

“We don’t really have many big names on defense but I think we have a bunch of guys who really want it. That’s going to be the edge and chip that we need,” Carter said. “I think it will be real good, just to get that bad taste out of our mouth, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We are going to go out there and prove people wrong.”

The Cowboys travel to the San Diego Chargers to kick off the preseason on Aug. 7. They host the San Francisco 49ers in the season-opener on Sept. 7.

Adam Thompson is the sports editor of the Sun Journal.