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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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BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka

Jess Haynie

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George Iloka

The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.

He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc

This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.

However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.

Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.

We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.



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What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019

John Williams

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Amari Cooper

In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.

Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.

The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?

Let's take a look.

Outside Receivers

As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.

Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.

As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.

Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.

Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.

There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.

Slot Receiver

Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.

While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.

Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.

In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.

Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.

With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.



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Report: Dallas Cowboys Set to Meet with Safety George Iloka

John Williams

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Why Cowboys Should Acquire Recently Released S George Iloka

As the Dallas Cowboys continue the process of building a roster capable of taking them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl, this next season, they’re bringing in another safety to try and strengthen their top 10 defense. This time it’s free agent safety George Iloka, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys are set to meet with

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

The #Cowboys are hosting former #Vikings and #Bengals safety George Iloka for a visit tomorrow, source said. They're still looking to add in the secondary.

It will be the third meeting this week that they’ve had with a veteran safety after hosting recently resigned Indianapolis’s colts Safety Clayton Geathers and former Kansas City Chiefs Safety Eric Berry.

The Cowboys feel really good about Xavier Woods at safety, but definitely could use some depth at the position as they head toward the 2019 NFL Draft.

Iloka is coming off a season where he was relegated to a reserve role for the Vikings. In five of the last six seasons, Iloka’s played all 16 games, and the one season he didn’t, he played 12. He has nine career interceptions, and has three seasons with more than 70 total tackles.

Back in August of last year, Brian Martin argued that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue Iloka after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. He would play the strong or box safety role in the Cowboys defense if they were to come to an agreement.

Stay tuned for more Free Agency coverage from us here at InsideTheStar.com.



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