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Charles Tapper Will Improve Cowboys Pass Rush In 2017

Brian Martin



Charles Tapper Will Improve Cowboys Pass Rush In 2017

Ever since the Dallas Cowboys' heartbreaking Divisional Round loss to the Packers (2016), the hot topic has been how to improve their pass rush. It's completely understandable, but there are no clear answers about how to do it. I'm probably in the minority here, but I think the Cowboys' pass rush will improve in 2017 because of second-year defensive end Charles Tapper.

Unfortunately, Charles Tapper didn't get to prove what he can do for the Cowboys' pass rush last year. He pretty much had to redshirt his first year in the NFL because of a back injury he sustained in training camp.

What was initially believed to be nothing more than back tightness was eventually diagnosed as a Pars Defect injury, or what is better known as a fractured vertebrae. Unbeknownst to him, it is an injury he has had since childhood, but has never caused him any problems.

It looks as if Tapper is now 100-percent ready for the Cowboys' off-season practices. We still have the rest of free agency and the draft to get through, but as things stand right now, he gives me the most hope for an improved pass rush this in 2017.

You may have forgotten, but the Dallas Cowboys drafted Charles Tapper with the first of their two fourth round draft picks in 2016. The second of course was used to draft Dak Prescott and we all know how that turned out.

Hopefully, Tapper can follow suit now that he is 100% healthy.

DE Charles TapperWho is Charles Tapper?

Charles Tapper is a second-year defensive end out of Oklahoma. At 6'2", 271-pounds, he has the prototypical size for a 4-3 defensive end and the athletic ability to be a really good player in the NFL.

Tapper was one of the top performing defensive ends at the 2016 NFL combine. His 4.59 40-yard dash was the best among the DEs in 2016 and would've tied him for third amongst this year's draft class with UCLA's Takkarist McKinley, who is about 20 pounds lighter.

Of course, a player can't be solely judged by their 40-yard dash, especially a defensive end. But, that speed can be utilized to chase down ball carriers from behind and to put opposing offensive tackles in a difficult position when rushing the quarterback around the edge.

He is also able to convert that speed into power when he utilizes his bull rush. It often results in offensive tackles looking as if they're wearing skates.

One of Tapper's more underrated attributes as a player is his impressive wingspan.

He has 34 3/8'' arms, which allows him to set a strong edge in the running game by keeping offensive lineman from getting into his body. That arm length also comes in handy as a pass rusher. He uses it effectively by not allowing offensive lineman to get their hands on him. It really makes him a difficult player to block coming off the edge.

DE Charles Tapper

Charles Tapper will be a difference maker in 2017

You may think I'm jumping the gun a little bit by saying Charles Tapper will be a difference maker for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, but if not for his back injury last season, he probably would've been the starting RDE.

Tyrone Crawford was forced to move from the inside of the Cowboys defense to the outside to fill that role, but that shouldn't happen with a healthy Tapper.

Charles Tapper already has the benefit of being in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's 4-3 defensive scheme for a year and is probably the Day 1-starter as things stand now. That redshirt year has also allowed him extra time to take advantage of the Cowboys' strength and conditioning program to redefine his body. This should allow him to be a much more effective player.

Another benefit to basically red-shirting his rookie year in the NFL is it has not only given him extra time for his back to heal, but it has also allowed him to develop a more diverse pass rushing repertoire. When watching his game film coming out of Oklahoma, you didn't really see him rush with any kind of plan and didn't really know how to use his hands as a pass rusher.

This should definitely change in his second year, which will make him a more complete player.


I completely understand if you think that I'm being a little overly optimistic about Charles Tapper helping the Cowboys' pass rush in 2017. It is completely understandable.

He is still a somewhat unknown commodity, because we didn't really get to see what he can do in a game situation. However, I believe that he is already better than anybody the Cowboys can draft this year. He has the skill set to be a disruptive force against both the run and the pass as a defensive end.

We'll have to wait and see if the Dallas Cowboys believe as I do, but we shouldn't have to wait long to get our answer.

If the Cowboys pass on drafting a defensive end in the first couple of rounds, we can probably assume they think Charles Tapper can take the next step in his career.

Do you think Tapper improves the 2017 Cowboys pass rush?

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

  • Travis Diggs

    I wanna believe this but how do we know this?? What have we seen to make us believe that he will be a difference maker but then again any additions to this defensive line will be considered a difference maker because of the lack of talent already on the roster

    • Brian Martin

      Travis, I agree we haven’t seen anything from Tapper that would suggest he will be a difference maker in 2017. But, that’s basically the same type of assumption you would receive if you drafted a defensive end at 28. The only difference is that Tapper has had a year in the system and a year of NFL coaching to improve his craft.

  • LD Jackson

    I think there is every reason to be optimistic about Charles Tapper and his contribution to the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, he is an unknown quality because he has yet to play in an NFL game, preseason or otherwise, but indications were that he was progressing nicely in training camp until he was sidelined with his back. As a Dallas and and Oklahoma fan, I am excited to see what he can do at the next level.

    • Brian Martin

      LD, I agree with everything you said.

      • LD Jackson

        I wish there was a way to confirm how Tapper’s back is coming along. You don’t see him mentioned a lot here, or in the Cowboy Forums.

        • Brian Martin

          You and me both. He seemed to think he was 100% ready to go before the Cowboys placed him on IR last season. So hopefully the extra time will allow him to heal up even more.

  • Russ_Te

    A strike for a quality RDE in Round 4 would be a strike indeed. I think you have to figure in a learning curve for Tapper at best, whereby Lawrence is far ahead of him for 2017.

    It’s true Lawrence could still flip sides and Irving could still work both LDE and DT, but I’m guessing the plan for now is to put some chips on Irving turning the next corner in his game. If he does that, that is my LDE down in / down out. That puts Lawrence back at RDE, where I think he can contribute QB pressures at times & play the run well.

    One element in this that can turn things upward is – like Irving – the improvement curve of Maliek Collins. We know he has the physicality to be a great DT. If he is on the rise and Lawrence is at RDE, we’ll get pressure from that side.

    I’d rather get a premiere prospect in here for RDE of course, but if they are gone and the CB’s are not, then IMO adding an impact CB is the shortest route to defensive upgrade this year.

    • Brian Martin

      Russ, everything you say is true. I however think Irving is better when he plays on the inside. His length and quickness off the ball give interior offensive lineman fits. The point I was trying to make is that I don’t know if DE is as big of a position of need as everybody seems to think. I’m sure the Cowboys want to find a dominant pass rusher, I just don’t know if there will be one available in the draft. All off this will work itself out in the off-season practices.

  • dallas1966

    Can’t wait

  • Connie Pratt Wilkinson

    i think we had above average pass coverage last year and that helped the below average pass rush. I dont believe carroll is as good as carr and we have done nothing to improve our pressure on opposing qb,s. so one or the other needs to be addressed at some point or a great defensive coordinator will take the fall for an inadequate general management job.

    • Brian Martin

      I honestly think our secondary is about the same. I think we will add more talent to the secondary and pass rush through the draft, which will hopefully help the defense.

  • John Williams

    I’m in. Wasn’t a fit in OU’s 3-4 yet was still a productive End player for them. I’d like to see him get a bit lighter so he could use his speed and athleticism a bit more. There are enough guys who have the power game, Tapper could be the guy that rushes with speed.

    I think he will make an impact this year.

    • Brian Martin

      I don’t know if he needs to get lighter. He’s already a 4.5 40 guy at 270 pounds. That’s a rarity. That should help him hold up against the run and allow him to chase down running backs. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can offer.

      • John Williams

        With his back history, it would help him to shed even 5 to ten pounds and would still leave him with enough size to play the RDE spot. Could only help with his jump, agility, and finishing.

        • Brian Martin

          I imagine that with basically a year in the strength and conditioning program, we will see Tapper with a remade body. I’m sure the staff focused on strengthening his back and getting him to where they think he needs to be to perform at his best.

          • John Williams

            They’ve had a lot of practice with Back/core strengthening with Romo. I’m really looking forward to training camp to see if he can push for a starting spot.

          • Brian Martin

            You can also add DeMarcus Lawrence. He has had back issues as well. I think a lot of us are really looking forward to training camp. There are high expectations for 2017

          • John Williams

            Looking forward to the competition that will be had for EDGE Snaps between Lawrence, Tapper, Irving, Moore, and their draft pick.

          • Brian Martin

            I agree. It is definitely going to be one of the camp battles everyone will be paying close attention to

Star Blog

Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Brian Martin



Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.

I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.

Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.

Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.

Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.

Shea McClellin

New England Patriots LB Shea McClellin

After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.

Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.

This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.

If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.

With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.

He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.

Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?

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Star Blog

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys

Jess Haynie



Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys

Now that he's signed with the Washington Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick joins a lackluster list of former Cowboys players and coaches who have gone from Dallas to its historic rival. The history of these moves is ugly for Washington, going back over 40 years, and can't have their fans too excited anytime they sign an ex-Cowboy.

The most recent example was just last year with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After a strong season as a 15-game starter in Dallas, McClain got a four-year, $21 million deal to join the Redskins. He missed four games with injuries and was only credited with two starts; hardly what the team wanted given the money they paid.

Before him it was Jason Hatcher, whose 11-sack season for the Cowboys in 2013 got him a four-year, $27.5 million deal from Washington. Hatcher would battle knee injuries for two season, getting only 7.5 sacks from 2014-2015. His early retirement in 2016 brought an abrupt end to a disappointing tenure.

Continuing the legacy of defensive linemen was Stephen Bowen, who Washington paid a shocking amount of money ($27.5 million over five years) to in 2011 to pick up in free agency. Bowen had a great first year for the Redskins with six sacks and 16 starts, but injuries would soon cost him 14 games from 2013-2014. He was eventually released after only one standout season in four with the team.

Going back even further, DT Brandon Noble joined Washington in 2003 after being a full-time starter for Dallas for over two seasons. He would miss all of 2003 with a knee injury, have an unimpressive year in 2004, and then missed all of 2005 with more health issues. He retired after being released by the Redskins in 2006.

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys 1

Hall of Fame CB Deion Sanders

Orlando Scandrick won't be the first cornerback to go from Dallas to Washington, or the best. At age 32, Deion Sanders was released in 2000 by the Cowboys and then got a huge seven-year, $56 million deal from the Redskins. This came less than a year after Daniel Snyder bought the franchise and was desperate to get them relevant again.

The Sanders move backfired horribly. Even after a solid season by his lofty standards, Primetime was disgruntled with both the coaching staff and his increasing struggles as an aging player. He suddenly retired after just one season of the seven-year contract.

Washington also tried to tap into the Cowboys' glory days when they signed receiver Alvin Harper in 1997. Harper had left Dallas in 1995 and spent two years with Tampa Bay, but had not carried over the same success he enjoyed playing in the Dallas offense.

The Redskins hoped that reuniting him with Norv Turner, who had been Harper's offensive coordinator and was now their head coach, would help Alvin get back to form. But between ongoing injuries and the absence of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith as teammates, Alvin Harper was never the same guy as when he won two Super Bowls in Dallas.

The failed poaching attempts go back many more decades, another one being running back Calvin Hill. The fourth-leading rusher in Cowboys history and a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas, Hill joined Washington in 1976. He served as a backup only, averaging only 3.8 yards-per-carry as he played behind the likes of Mike Thomas and John Riggins.

Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys 2

Norv Turner also couldn't bring his Cowboys success to Washington. (Brian Bahr/Allsport)

The bad history doesn't stop with players. The aforementioned Norv Turner, who was one of the hottest assistant coaches in history after the Cowboys first two Super Bowl wins in the 90s, was hired as the Redskins' head coach in 1994.

Turner's run started with a whimper, drafting quarterback Heath Shuler third overall in that first year. Shuler would go down as one of the biggest QB busts in NFL history

Norv's Redskins never seemed to recover from that blunder. He only had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance from 1994-1999, and was fired midway through the 2000 season.

Far more recently, Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan left the team in 2015 and took the same job in Washington. He didn't get to bring the offensive line or DeMarco Murray with him, though. As such, the Redskins have remained one of the league's worst rushing teams for the last three seasons. They fell to a new low of 28th in the NFL in 2017.

~ ~ ~

Of course, none of this means that Orlando Scandrick won't have success in Washington. But with the Redskins generally the most mismanaged team in the NFC East, all of the Dallas players and coaches who've gone there have not walked into good situations. For all that Cowboys fans love to complain about Jerry Jones, he handles the owner and GM roles better than any pair Washington's had in almost 30 years.

Given the nature of the rivalries, we naturally can't wish success for Scandrick or anyone else who leaves Dallas for a division opponent. With the track record we just discussed for Washington, it's not something I'll be losing any sleep over.

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Star Blog

Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?

Brian Martin



Cowboys Have Their Version of Tryann Mathieu in Xavier Woods?

It's not uncommon for Dallas Cowboys fans to zero in on certain free agents in hopes that they will bring their talents to America's Team. In fact, just about any "big name" player to hit the open market is often linked to the Cowboys in some way or another. That was the case when the Arizona Cardinals decided to move on from Tyrann Mathieu.

Once Tyrann Mathieu became available, Cowboys fans immediately wanted to see him with a star on his helmet. But, despite the fans petitioning, the Cowboys brass seemed to show almost zero interest in the former Cardinal.

The decision to not pursue Tyrann Mathieu certainly didn't sit well with a lot of Cowboys Nation, but I think it was the right decision.

Despite Mathieu's perceived talents and youth (he's just 25), the Cowboys weren't interested in paying the price to bring him to Dallas, especially since they already have a similar player on their roster.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys DB Xavier Woods

It may sound crazy, but I think the real reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't show much interest in Tyrann Mathieu is because of Xavier Woods.

I honestly believe Xavier Woods and Tyrann Mathieu have a similar skill set. Both players are little undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL, but each of them have the versatility to play several different roles in the secondary.

Mathieu may have been listed as a safety on the Arizona Cardinals roster, and now the Houston Texans, but the truth is he played mostly out of the nickel/slot in his professional and collegiate career. That is where he is at his best, and the same can be said about Xavier Woods.

As a rookie, Xavier Woods showed his versatility with the Dallas Cowboys by playing a variety of different roles in the secondary. His versatility was one of the reasons the Cowboys decided to trade up in last year's draft to acquire his services.

His name might not carry the same kind of weight as Tyrann Mathieu right now around the league or amongst NFL fans, but I don't think Xavier Woods is that much of a drop off talent wise.

Xavier Woods

Dallas Cowboys DB Xavier Woods (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Personally, I believe Mathieu is starting to decline a little as a player. I think injuries are starting to take a toll on his play, although it may be minimal. I actually prefer Xavier Woods' upside, especially when you take into account the difference in salaries between the two.

Surprisingly enough, Xavier Woods might just have been more productive in 2017 then Mathieu. Woods started just four games and finished the season with 42 tackles, three passes defensed, and one interception. Mathieu on the other hand started all 16 games and accumulated 78 tackles, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.

As you can see, Xavier Woods was almost just as productive as Mathieu in nearly a third of the playing time. What's even more impressive about this is that Woods accomplish this as a rookie.

Of course, all of this is speculation, but I for one am not all that upset the Dallas Cowboys missed out on Tyrann Mathieu. I'm willing to bet on Xavier Woods being able to do everything Mathieu can and at a fraction of the cost.

Were the Cowboys right not to pursue Tyrann Mathieu?

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