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.
Who 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.
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.