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Cowboys DE Taco Charlton Improving, But Critics Will Remain

Jess Haynie

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Taco Charlton

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has a favorite phrase about "stacking good days on top of good days" when it comes to developing as a player and as a team. For the last two preseason games, rookie defensive end Taco Charlton has done just that.

Things didn't start great for the 28th-overall pick, at least by some standards. The rookie was reportedly struggling in training camp and then carried that into the Hall of Fame game two weeks ago. Taco looked hapless against even backup offensive tackles, unable to shed blocks and make any real impact.

Taco Charlton, Rams

DE Taco Charlton

Last week, Charlton got his first sack (unofficial, of course) against the Los Angeles Rams. He also looked more generally effective in creating pressure, which carried over into last night's game. Charlton beat the Colts' starting left tackle to pressure to force a bad throw that should have been intercepted, but his teammates couldn't come up with it.

This is hardly my way of saying that Taco has silenced his critics or even proven he was worth the Cowboys' first-round pick. However, the rookie took a lot of flack for his lack of impact in the Hall of Fame game. It's only fair to recognize his improvement in the following weeks.

Charlton is going to have a tough road with some Cowboys followers. Many wanted T.J. Watt, the pass rusher out of Wisconsin and the younger brother of J.J., who was selected just two picks later by the Pittsburgh Steelers. It doesn't help matters that Watt had two sacks in the Steelers' preseason opener and has already been named a starter.

Some maintain the same argument from around the draft; Watt is a 3-4 pass rusher and would not have worked for the Cowboys scheme at his size. There's probably some validity to that, but many aren't going to care if he's racking up sacks and Charlton isn't making the same kind of impact in Dallas.

Cowboys Minicamp: Taco Charlton Impresses At LDE, Who Emerges At RDE? 1

The "You drafted him instead of HIM?!" tag is a tough one for any athlete to carry. Perhaps the most famous example is from the NBA; Sam Bowie forever known as the guy the Portland Trail Blazers drafted instead of Michael Jordan. It will probably be on his tombstone.

You don't have to too old to have seen this play out in Dallas, and even with a guy who played the same position as Taco Charlton. In 1998, Dallas notoriously passed on wide receiver Randy Moss and drafted defensive end Greg Ellis. Despite a long and productive career with the Cowboys, Ellis has never shaken the label of being the guy Dallas took instead of Moss.

Did you know that Ellis is third all-time in sacks for the Cowboys**, trailing just DeMarcus Ware and Jim Jeffcoat? He ranks 51st all-time in NFL history** with 84 career sacks, which puts him in the same company as more heralded names like Willie McGinest and Osi Umenyiora.

** This is disputable as sacks weren't recorded until 1982, meaning many great defenders aren't represented on these lists. Still, we work what we have. **

Obviously, Greg Ellis was never the kind of defensive end that Randy Moss was a receiver. One guy will likely make the Hall of Fame some day, and the other doesn't have a prayer. Still, Ellis was a far better player than he's ever been given credit for. That imbalance has largely to do with his connection to Moss.

Hopefully, Taco Charlton's career won't be stuck in anyone's shadow. He may not have the opportunity to make big waves early; the Cowboys employ a heavy rotation and have DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, and others who could be more effective this year than the rookie. Time and patience will be needed before we see everything Taco has to offer.

At the very least, for these last two weeks, he's been getting noticed for the right reasons. Progress is always worth appreciating.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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4 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    Taco will be Alright. Where’s Kellen Moores critics???????From last nites game All yall could pull from it was Tacos performance?!, The ONLY discussion we should be having today after the colts game is Why is Kellen Moore backing up Dak Prescott??#COOPERRUSH

    • Jess Haynie

      Hijacking is a criminal offense, Travis. 🙂

  • Kevin Black

    I wanted Watt. We’ll be sorry we didn’t draft him. He could play in our style 4-3. Perhaps not a typical 4-3, but ours is predicated on speed, not size. He would have done great things here.

    But that’s in the past. Taco is a David Irving starter kit which is why he’s here. He’ll be adequate, not great. Think Greg Ellis, less Demarcus Ware (which is who Watt will be compared to). For where we drafted, that’s pretty good, even if the coaches were the ones who wanted him and the scouts preferred Watt.

    The rest of our draft was solid. Sorry the hamstrings are keeping the kiddos off the field though. I would love to see them in the preseason games. Hopefully next week we can see a few.

  • Randy Martin

    For his detractors you can’t judge these guys in a vacuum. From all indications Stephen Paea has looked awesome and is likely to nail down the other starting DT position next to Maliek Collins. Oh yeah there are rotational players but you put Irving, Lawrence, or Tapper, Moore or Charlton on the edge with more playing time, I believe there is huge upside for Taco. If he notches 6 sacks for the season I will call it a success. He also plays the run very well so I have no regrets about the pick. Always easy to take the greener grass view, but in this case I will just take the rose-colored glass view.

Game Notes

Cowboys, Seahawks Week 3 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Offense: More Hot Sauce Needed From Cole Beasley 3
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas isn't the only guy whose playing status is in question for today's game. Other key players for Seattle and the Dallas Cowboys appear on the teams' Week 3 injury reports.

The Cowboys are looking to move to 2-1 and maintain a slim lead in the NFC East. The Seahawks are still looking for their first win of 2018, and the drama around Thomas isn't helping the fear of a locker room implosion.

What players may not be out there to help their teams to victory?

Dallas Cowboys

  • C Travis Frederick (illness) - OUT
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - OUT
  • WR Cole Beasley (ankle) - Questionable
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
  • S Xavier Woods (hamstring) - Questionable

Frederick remains out as he deals with his neurological disease. Dallas decided to keep him on the 53-man roster, rather than place him on injured reserve, with the hope that he could return before Week 9. There are still several weeks before we'll know if that was a good move.

Maliek Collins will be out today after a minor knee injury suffered last week against the Giants. Taking his spot will be Datone Jones, who returns from his own knee issue after missing the first two games.

You don't like seeing your quarterback's favorite receiver and your defensive leader on the same injury report. Thankfully, though, it appears both Cole Beasley and Sean Lee will be available today.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

For the #Cowboys, WR Cole Beasley (ankle) is expected to play, and LB Sean Lee (hamstring) should be good to go, as well, based on how he moved around in practice on Friday, sources say.

Finally, we come to the ever-intriguing Xavier Woods. While limited in practice all week, Woods is expected to make his season debut in Seattle. We will see if Xavier gets the start at free safety, or if Dallas will ease him back in and keep Kavon Frazier starting for now.

With all of the hype around Dallas' possible acquisition of Earl Thomas, one has to hope that Xavier won't overdo it and make matters worse with his hamstring. Between the enthusiasm just to play and the threat to his starting job, the second-year stud should be pretty amped up.

Seattle Seahawks

  • WR Doug Baldwin (knee) - OUT
  • C/G Ethan Pocic (ankle) - OUT
  • LB K.J. Wright (knee) - OUT
  • C Justin Britt (shoulder) - Questionable
  • LB Mychal Kendricks (ankle) - Questionable
  • S Earl Thomas (???) - ???

Seattle remains without Baldwin, their leading receiver from 2014-2017, and it shows in their offensive play. QB Russell Wilson is currently at career lows in completion percentage and passer rating, plus has already thrown three interceptions in just two games.

The Seahawks have issues up front as well. Starting left guard Ethan Pocic will also miss today's game. With right guard D.J. Fluker returning this week after missing the first two, that will allow backup J.R. Sweezy to flip over to the other side.

If that wasn't enough, starting center Justin Britt missed the entire week of practice with a shoulder issue. He has not been ruled out, though. Regardless, those are a lot of red flags on your offensive line with the Cowboys' emerging defense coming to town.

Also out today will be Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright. That means we could see Mychal Kendricks, who was just recently booted from Cleveland after being charged with insider trading, playing a major role today. Kendricks knows the Cowboys well, having played with the Eagles from 2012-2017.

And lastly, Earl Thomas.

No health or injury-related reason has been given for why Thomas missed practices on Wednesday and Friday. "Personal reasons" is all you're getting from Seattle, fueling rampant speculation that a trade is in the works. Whether or not that trade is with the Dallas Cowboys is pure conjecture at this point.

What we do know is that Seattle is 0-2 and trending down this year. Holding onto Thomas and his expiring contract, only to lose him for nothing next year in free agency, would be foolish.

We'll see if Earl plays at all today. If he doesn't, the trade talk is going to explode.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Wishlist: Dallas Cowboys VS. Seattle Seahawks

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Center Travis Frederick Still Hoping to "Be a Rock" for Teammates Despite GBS Syndrome

It's week 3 of the 2018 NFL season and this match-up already feels like one of the most important ones the Dallas Cowboys will play in the season. The reason why is they need to prove they're good enough to win consistently and that they won't have another year that feels like a roller coaster of wins and losses like 2017 did. As they travel to Seattle to face the 0-2 Seahawks, the 1-1 Cowboys can't miss a perfect opportunity versus one of the weakest units in football: the Seahawks' offensive line.

As every gameday, here is my Cowboys Wishlist for this week's action. As always, I encourage you to share your wishes with me in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!

Meet Brett Maher, the Cowboys Kicker Replacing Dan Bailey for 2018

Dallas Cowboys K Brett Maher (Shanna Lockwood / USA TODAY Sports)

Wish #1: Brett Maher Kicks a 50+ yard FG.

Dan Bailey recently signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Cowboys Nation will experience a very odd feeling when they see their former kicker wear purple. If there's something that can make fans feel better is watching the guy who replaced Bailey nail a long field goal in Seattle.

Brett Maher showed he could kick a 47-yard FG in preseason, but we want to see him pull it off in a kick that will actually go down in the books. The decision to release Dan Bailey won't leave our minds until we see Maher do his job.

Wish #2: Rico Gathers Scores His First Career TD.

It felt like forever, but tight end Rico Gathers was activated for the first time in his career last Sunday. Rico didn't get his first catch even though he was targeted twice by Dak Prescott. The most notable moment was when Gathers seemed to be open in the endzone but Dak missed him.

Although Prescott's pass could've been better, Gathers did stumble a little bit and wasn't where he should've been to catch that touchdown. No worries, Rico's career is only beginning. I wish his first touchdown ever finally comes this week.

Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie (AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth)

Wish #3: Defense Gets Its First Interception of the Year.

Through two weeks of NFL action, the Dallas Cowboys defense has been one of the most impressive units. Ranking as the third best in total points in the league, the Cowboys' defense might begin being the team's best side of the ball. At least, it has been for the first two weeks.

Last week, they limited Odell Beckham Jr. to only 51 yards. Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie have played pretty well so far, but I wish they're able to get their first interception of the year. Dallas has one takeaway from week 1 versus the Panthers, but it came in form of a fumble.

Let's get that interception from Russell Wilson, who will be pressured most of the day by a very productive Cowboys' front seven.

Wish #4: 20+ Point Performance

Despite a very exciting first drive versus the Giants last week, the Cowboys' offense still needs to prove it can be successful enough to win games. Scott Linehan's unit had some good drives but it also failed to maintain a consistent attack all game. That may seem okay, but the Cowboys will have to win against some pretty tough defenses.

Seahawks will present the team with a very interesting challenge and one that I wish they pass. As good as the defense is playing, the offense needs to show up in order to win later games.

Wish #5: Contain Russell Wilson

Wilson is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL. His agility might be the best among every other signal caller in the game, becoming a very tough guy to defend. He can hurt you with his arms and legs and can throw on the run pretty well. All week we've been talking about how sacking the Seahawks' QB is a key to the victory, but it's more than that.

Wilson is good in the pocket, but when he starts scrambling or running out of the pocket only to throw the ball once the defense is out of position, he becomes a pretty painful headache. The Cowboys need to put him on the ground, but they also need to contain him all day long. He's basically his team's entire offense.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Wishlist: Dallas Cowboys VS. Seattle Seahawks" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Game Notes

Kris Richard’s Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond the Defense in Seattle

Sean Martin

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Kris Richard's Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond Defense in Meeting at Seattle 1

Through just two games, the Dallas Cowboys addition of Kris Richard to their revamped coaching staff appears to be the team's best move of the offseason. Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli revealed that Richard is calling the team's plays on defense, which explains their attacking style of play so far.

It was the Cowboys blitzes that disrupted the Giants offense enough for Dallas to earn their first win a week ago. With the schedule set up favorably for the Cowboys to build off this win, Richard must lead his defense past his old team in Seattle for Sunday's week three match up.

On paper, the Cowboys defense should be able to limit the Seahawks thanks to their strong pass rush and lengthy secondary. Welcoming back Xavier Woods at safety, the Cowboys are getting even better in the back end against the Seahawks, allowing Richard to throw even more looks at Seattle with his front seven.

Starting wide receiver Doug Baldwin and guard Ethan Pocic will both miss this game for the Seahawks.

With an offense still trying to find its footing though, Richard' profound impact on the Cowboys staff has extended past the defensive side of the ball this week. Perhaps the most criticized Cowboys coach this season, Offensive Coordiator Scott Linehan has sat down with Richard to study the Seahawks defense - coordinated by Richard against the Cowboys specifically.

Kate Hairopoulos on Twitter

Scott Linehan and Kris Richard have been spending a good chunk of time together this week dissecting Seattle's approach. Richard obviously knows Seahawks well. Linehan said Richard has great recall, taking him through each play of teams' previous games.

At 1-1, the Cowboys are still looking to put a complete game on the field and prove they deserve to sit atop the NFC East. The defense being their strongest unit through an ugly loss in Carolina and grind-it-out win against the Giants, Linehan's offense creating some explosive plays against the Seahawks could be all the Cowboys need to exit CenturyLink field as winners on Sunday.

Since Linehan officially took over as the Cowboys OC, he is 0-2 against Seahawks defenses coordinated by Richard. When Kris left Seattle, it was believed that he got out at the right time, with the Seahawks defense declining in talent ever since 2015 (his first year as DC).

The NFL's top scoring defense in 2015, the Seahawks were a full point per game worse in 2016, and nearly 2.5 points worse than that in 2017. So far this season, the Seahawks have allowed 27 points to Case Keenum's Broncos and 24 to the Mitch Trubisky lead Chicago Bears.

Kris Richard's Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond Defense in Meeting at Seattle

The Cowboys biggest problem against Richard's defenses had been finishing drives, something they improved on against the Giants last week. Both Cowboys losses coming at home, the Seahawks kept Dallas out of the end zone in both week eight of 2015 and week 17 a year ago.

Last year's loss to the Seahawks should still sting those at The Star who saw a desperate push for the playoffs hit a wall against Seattle's defense - holding the Cowboys to 282 yards in Ezekiel Elliott's return from suspension.

Not having to rely solely on motivation for revenge while sitting back and trusting Elliott to carry them, Richard could be the key to the Cowboys passing game finding some rhythm. After all, his official title beyond "offseason steal" is Passing Game Coordinator - a position occupied previously by Linehan himself back in 2014.

With a win, similarly to 2014 when the Cowboys came out of Seattle victorious, Dallas would go a long way in earning respect around the league.

This goes for both the offense, where the Cowboys will remain a work in progress regardless of result, and on defense where Dallas can expect Maliek Collins (knee) and David Irving (suspension) to return in the coming weeks.

Kris Richard's focus has been on bettering the Cowboys since they added him to the organization with a clear path up the ranks. Just how far Richard ascends, and how quickly, will depend on the Cowboys performance - expecting to be more than ready for the challenge ahead this week thanks to the coach responsible for building the "Legion of Boom".

The Cowboys kickoff in Seattle being FOX's game of the week, this team has never been one to back away from the spotlight, and winning under it with Richard on the sideline would give the Cowboys all the momentum they need returning home for week four.

Tell us what you think about "Kris Richard’s Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond the Defense in Seattle" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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