Probably the biggest problem the Cowboys face is the shallowness of their defensive line, specifically the defensive end position. With Greg Hardy and Jeremy Mincey gone, and Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory facing four game suspensions, it is clear the Dallas Cowboys need help at defensive end.
Who will be available to rush Eli Manning against the Giants in Week 1? As of now, the starter at LDE is Ryan Russell, followed by Charles Tapper, Benson Mayowa and then Caleb Azubike. At RDE, the depth chart lists David Irving then Michael McAdoo and finally Neill Jason.
Luckily, with their fourth round pick, the Dallas Cowboys selected Charles Tapper out of the University of Oklahoma.
While some have criticized Tapper’s production at Oklahoma, it is important to note how the Sooners used him. Tapper was usually tasked with taking on two blockers to create opportunities for the Sooner linebackers instead of rushing the passer himself, as shown here when he takes on 78 and 56:
Tapper can play inside and outside. Even though he himself didn’t do a lot of pass rushing, he still received accolades from conference coaches each of the past three years with first Team honors coming after the 2013 and 2015 seasons. He started 38 of 39 games during that time. He recorded a total of 136 tackles, 26.5 tackles for a loss and 15.5 sacks.
It’s plays like these that get my hopes up that he can be a true three down DE.
To get there in the NFL, he’ll have to hone some of his techniques. He tends to just bombard the the blockers with seemingly no real game plan in mind. While his bull rush is impressive, he will need to develop better hand play to be a consistent DE in the league.
On the plus side he has long arms, 34 ⅜ inches and had a 4.56 40 yard dash, one of the fastest in the combine. That’s while standing 6-3, wieghing 271 pounds.
Because of his playing style and his ability to play inside and outside the defensive line, Tapper is comparable to Jack Crawford. If Tapper is to start week 1, he would have to prove, in training camp and preseason, that he’s better than Jack Crawford or that he’s better than the only player listed above him on the depth chart, Ryan Russell.
Because Tapper looks to be a work in progress, it could be a tall order to expect him to be a starter in 2016, even if both Gregory and Lawrence are suspended for the first four games. Tapper will have a great tutor in Rod Marinelli and if he found a way to work his way into the rotation, that would be ideal.
Assuming that Marinelli sticks with the 4 – 3 alignment, Tapper will likely be given the free reign to pin his ears back and rush the passer but probably only as a situational pass rusher.