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Cowboys Made Right Choice Drafting Taco Charlton Over T.J. Watt

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Made Right Choice Drafting Taco Charlton Over T. J. Watt

Let's rewind a little bit and head back to the 2017 NFL Draft. The Dallas Cowboys were on the clock with the 28th selection in the first-round and decided to hand in their draft card with Defensive End Taco Charlton's name written on it. This caused a lot of Cowboys Nation to go into a frenzy because the majority of them wanted T.J. Watt.

I'll admit I was guilty of being completely shocked the Cowboys decided to draft Charlton over Watt, but I had faith Will McClay and the scouting department knew what they were doing. I liked Charlton enough to give them the benefit of the doubt, despite liking Watt a little bit better.

Leading into the 2017 NFL Draft, T.J. Watt was a player who might have seen his draft stock rise the most. Not only did he possess a really good NFL bloodline (J.J. Watt), but his measurable's and performance at the scouting combine were among the best amongst the pass rushers.

It wasn't that big of a secret the Dallas Cowboys were targeting a defensive end with their first-round selection. Unfortunately, selecting at the backend in the first isn't the best place to find a pass rusher. But, there were going to be a few options available, most notably Taco Charlton and T.J. Watt.

We all know who the Dallas Cowboys selected, but unfortunately fans continued to whine and moan about not selecting Watt, especially after getting off to a hot start with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only did he make an immediate impact, but it made the Cowboys decision to take Charlton look like the wrong one.

Taco Charlton, T.J. Watt

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton and Pittsburgh Steelers LB T.J. Watt

Well, after witnessing the way Taco Charlton has played in the preseason and after doing some research, I'm pleased to announce the Dallas Cowboys absolutely got it right by drafting the former Michigan standout defensive end.

If you just look at Taco Charlton and T.J. Watt's first-year statistics, then Watt without a doubt had a better rookie season. Watt ended the year with 54 tackles, 7 quarterback sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. Charlton on the other hand only managed 19 tackles, 3 QB sacks, and 1 forced fumble. Based on this information alone, Watt clearly had the better rookie season. But, did he actually?

After doing a little research, I don't think Taco Charlton had as bad of a rookie season as we might  have thought, especially compared to T.J. Watt. Watt was just given more opportunities to prove himself.

You see, Taco Charlton didn't play as many defensive snaps last season as T.J. Watt. With the Cowboys, Charlton only played 399 defensive snaps (38.18%) compared to Watt's 751 snaps (76.55%). It's no wonder Watt was more productive his rookie season. He nearly doubled Charlton's playing time. With that information, if you were to double Charlton's rookie production, he would be just about on par with Watt.

I wanted to point all of this out because I believe Taco Charlton is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential. I think he will only continue to get better, whereas T.J. Watt has likely reached his peak, at least in my opinion.

Hopefully, this will put the debate about whether or not the Dallas Cowboys should have drafted T.J. Watt over Taco Charlton to rest, at least for now. We won't know which player will end up being the better of the two until their careers finally come to an end. But, when all is said and done, I believe Charlton will be the victor.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys got it right by drafting Taco Charlton?



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.

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19 Comments
  • Kevin Black

    Let’s clear up something right now: Will McClay and the scouts wanted T.J. Watt. The coaches wanted Taco Charlton. McClay was willing to give this to the coaches because the difference wasn’t that much, but the scouts had Watt rated higher.

    Let’s also be clear about position. Taco Charlton is a left defensive end, the same position that Tank Lawrence plays. T.J. Watt is a right defensive end in our defense, a position that Tyrone Crawford played last year. Crawford is serviceable as the right defensive end, sometimes called the weak side end, but Dallas still drafted Dorance Armstrong to hopefully replace Crawford because he fits the profile better. When that happened, NO ONE thought Randy Gregory would be coming back.

    So, after the draft in 2018, you had two players at the right side end, sometimes called the strong side, and no definitive left side end that matched the preferred profile except a 4th round pick.

    Next year you get to decide whether to play Tank Lawrence, which will stop Taco’s progress, or let him go and hope Taco plays as well as Tank did. You got lucky this year with Randy Gregory coming back and it seems Dorance Armstrong is a steal that rarely happens at weak side end in the NFL.

    I’d be curious if they still draft Dorance if they had T.J. Watt in the fold though. After their careers are over, T.J. will have the better overall career stats-wise. Much of that has to do with the position he plays, but it also has to do with the talent each has. Taco will be a real good player in this league, another Greg Ellis. You’d love to have Greg Ellis on your team, but he’s no Demarcus Ware.

    • Jeff

      First paragraph: pure conjecture. Show me any proof of that.

      Watt plays OLB, and most scouting reports coming out pointed out he was a better in a 3-4 than as a 4-3 DE. Comparing him to Ware is a joke, right? A first ballot HOF? The best at his position in the NFL? TJ Watt will likely have a decent career as will Charlton.

      • Kevin Black

        It’s not conjecture. It’s been reported several times, most recently by Fish.

        I don’t see where I compared T.J. Watt to Demarcus Ware. You are extending the comparison of Greg Ellis and Demarcus Ware to something I never did.

        My opinion was that Watt will have a better career than Taco at the end. That Taco’s career will be more like Greg Ellis. That’s it.

        • Jeff

          So it’s Fish’s conjecture. He didn’t document his sources.

          • Kevin Black

            If you want to say it’s conjecture, go ahead, but Fish will tell you that privately, that’s what happened. They won’t say it publicly so it doesn’t ruffle any feathers. Still doesn’t change the fact that’s how it happened.

            No, I’m implying that Taco will be more like Ellis than Ware. And I said that’s not bad. I just think T.J. Watt’s career would be better, but since he’s not here, there no way to truly compare since he’s in the 3-4 and Taco is in a 4-3. Ellis had a lot of sacks in his career due to longevity and we can’t add that to equation. Taco will be as good as Ellis, but there’s no guarantee he will be in the league that long. If Watt and Taco have the same length of careers and play the same number of games, Watt will be about 20% better.

  • Jeff

    Taco Charlton’s hair alone this preseason is proof enough Dallas should have drafted Watt.

  • Timothy Tabor

    If you actually believe this your an idiot! TJ Watt is the next Clay Mathews! Taco won’t even reach the numbers Watt did as a Rookie! Wait and watch!

    • Will

      In a 3-4/hybrid defense, Watt is clearly better. We run a 4-3, and in this system, Taco will end up the better piece for us

  • Sam Iam

    This article is a weak assessment of the situation considering the draft process and choices available at the time. Looking back I’d rather have someone like the TE Njoku over either. We’d have a lot less noise this year about the gaping hole in the TE spot this year, if they had him. DE was a modest need , Taco wasnt the best available player.

    • Will

      This is what I was going to say. With getting Gregory back and signing Ealy, Njoku would be infinitely more helpful at this point

    • Fred Miller

      The Cowboys knew he wasn’t the best player available. I did read they wanted a DB but fealt the remaining talent at DE was thin and there were plenty of talented DB’s remaining so they drafted Taco.

  • Chuck Wright

    Despite claims, don’t think we really know until this year. clearly Watt a better year 1 player. Which one grows from their rookie year?

    • Will

      The only thing clear is that Watt got more playing time. If you equal out the time, Taco is the better 4-3 DE

      • D_Hawk

        You can’t just double Taco’s stats because of his volume of snaps and say he’s better. Sadly, there is no analysis in this article, just base conjecture. Even knowing what percent of Taco’s snaps were in passing situations vs. a base D would help, but we don’t have that.

        As much as I liked TJ (before the combine even), I don’t see a 4-3 DE as a natural fit. Not saying he wouldn’t succeed in Dallas, but he’s in a better system for his size and skill set.

        • Will

          I wasn’t saying Taco was/is better than Watt. Who’s better is irrelevant. I was saying that given equal playing time, Taco projects to be just slightly worse/basically on par with Watt. What is clear, however, is that Watt is a 3-4 player while Taco is a 4-3

  • Sexcdex Xfact

    I too was caught up on the hype & Taco didn’t have as much starting time in Michigan than Watts college career

    I simply don’t know how TJ would fit in our scheme, but taco has only 1 yr starting experience

    So I knew Taco had a higher ceiling in all likelihood

    I’m more confident in Will McClay’s ability but still equally skeptical with our coaching ability

    Just hope projects like the Rico Gathers experiment doesn’t get scrapped prematurely

    Rico is a different challenge for our FO & coaching
    But
    I’m hopeful that Dallas trust the same first mind synopsis with Gathers as they have with Gregory, D Law, Taco, Dak,

    He’s just too good despite his rawness NOT to invest a bit more patience & effort to strike oil “Mr. Jones, sir”

    That’s your language prior to football
    Continue to prime the Rico Gathers pump

    The dividends won’t disappoint you not your fans

  • Tamzombren Lauderdale

    Watt wasnt drafted bc he doesnt fit our scheme, he’s more suited 2 b EXACTLY what he was drafted 2 b, a 3-4 OLB, he could not hold up as a NFL 4-3 DE, he’s to small & would suffer against the run !

    • D_Hawk

      I’m not sure if I completely agree that TJ couldn’t make it as a 4-3 DE, but you at least provide better insight than the article did. Watt is certainly better off in a 3-4.

      • Tamzombren Lauderdale

        Fair enough !

Game Notes

Do Or Die: Chidobe Awuzie Must Improve Sunday, Or Cowboys Season Could End

Kevin Brady

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Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys' Defense?

Coming into the season there was a lot of hype surrounding the Dallas Cowboys' cornerbacks. With Byron Jones moving from safety full time, and now second year player Chidobe Awuzie playing opposite Jones after a promising rookie season, there was a lot for Cowboys fans to be excited about.

Through the first 10 weeks of the year, though, only one of those two has maintained fans' excitement. While Byron Jones has been arguably the best cornerback in all of football, Chidobe Awuzie has been damn-near an automatic completion when thrown at.

Awuzie has a -5.8 coverage rating this season, 65th among cornerbacks in the NFL. Coverage rating is a metric which factors in how often a cornerback is targeted as well as how many passes they've defensed per target. Quarterbacks also have a 116.6 passer rating when targeting Awuzie, compared to just 64.5 when targeting Byron Jones. For comparisons sake, Jones' coverage rating is a +45! So you can see why "cornerback opposite of Jones" is becoming a need for the Cowboys.

What's perplexing about Awuzie's season, though, is that he is only giving up an average 0.95 yards of separation, 27th in the league (courtesy of playerprofiler.com). So while Awuzie is playing relatively sticky coverage, he's still being targeted often, and he's still allowing completions way too often.

This week, Chidobe Awuzie will be tested once again, this time by the dynamic passing game of the Atlanta Falcons. The match-up many fans are focusing on is that between Byron Jones and Julio Jones, but how Awuzie does against Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu may play a bigger factor in the result.

Both Ridley and Sanu are solid supporting receivers, and considering how much attention the defense typically has to pay to Julio Jones, they tend to get man coverage often. This allows for a precise route runner like Ridley to take advantage of opportunities, and come away with the types of big plays we've seen from him this year.

When matched up with either of these weapons, Awuzie will need to continue to stay close, but play and defense the ball better. He must continue to make it hard on these receivers and force them into contested catches, but hopefully he can improve on his play when the ball gets to the catch point.

Sunday will be another big test for the Cowboys' young defense. And as well as they have played most weeks, this game has the potential to be a season ender if certain guys do not step up. One of those guys who will certainly play a key role in influencing the result in Chidobe Awuzie.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Defense Faces Tough Matchup vs Falcons Passing Attack

John Williams

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Bottom Line: Are the Cowboys Better or Worse for 2018?

When you're a 4-5 team in the NFL with preseason expectations of making the playoffs, the last half of the season has a lot of of must-win games. This week is no different. The Dallas Cowboys face another 4-5 team in the Atlanta Falcons who is also looking to keep their playoff hopes alive. Both teams are still in the hunt, but have slightly different paths to get there. The Dallas Cowboys would probably have to win the NFC East to make the playoffs with the Falcons only real chance coming via the wild card. The New Orleans Saints look to be the kings of the NFC South this season.

In order to stay in the hunt, the Dallas Cowboys are going to need a huge defensive effort against a fierce Atlanta Falcons passing game. Through the first nine games, the Cowboys have provided reason for optimism that they can slow down Matt Ryan and company, but they've also had some porous efforts this season.

The front seven of the defense has played pretty well through the first nine games of the season and Byron Jones has been one of the best corner backs in the league. They've had problems on the left sde of the defense with Chidobe Awuzie and with the safeties.

The Cowboys will face a really difficult challenge as they travel to face the Atlanta Falcons passing game led by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

Matt Ryan is in the top five in most passing categories including yards, touchdowns, passer rating, completion percentage, and leads the league in passing yards per game. In yards per attempt, net yards per attempt, and air yards per attempt, Matt Ryan is sixth in the NFL.

As you can see from the chart above provided by Next Gen Stats and NFL.com, Matt Ryan has been average to better than average throwing to every area of the field this season. Particularly troubling is what he's doing when he's throwing to his right, which happens to be the side of the field occupied by Chidobe Awuzie. Awuzie is allowing a passer rating of 129.7 this season, which is the 15th worst number in the NFL among corners who have played a minimum of 92 coverage snaps.

What's potentially more troubling than how efficient Matt Ryan's been throwing to Awuzie's side of the field is the fact that Julio Jones will play all over the formation and can beat you in every area of the field.

The chances are high that we'll see Awuzie lined up against Julio Jones on several occasions on Sunday. Pray for Chido, y'all. 

Jones has only scored two touchdowns this year, but through nine games, he's already over 1,000 yards receiving, which is leading the NFL. Julio is fourth in the NFL in receptions and is averaging more than 15 yards per catch. He's third in the NFL in yards per route run at 2.99 sitting behind only Michael Thomas and Albert Wilson among players with at least 20 targets on the season.

From Jones' chart against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week six, you can see that they lined him up all over the formation and they ran him on a large variety of routes to a large variety of depths. Julio Jones is one of the best route runners in the NFL, which is scary considering he provides huge size and athleticism to go with it.

As good as he's been this season, the secondary receivers for the Falcons -- Calvin Ridley, Mohammed Sanu, and Austin Hooper -- have also played well. Each of them has more than 400 yards receiving on the season. To put that in perspective, Cole Beasley leads the Dallas Cowboys in receiving yards at 403. Each of the Falcons' top four targets have more receiving yards than Beasley does.

Not sure if that speaks of how good the Falcons passing game has been or how bad the Cowboys passing game has been.

The Cowboys will be facing the player that fans wanted the team to select instead of Leighton Vander Esch at 19th overall; Calvin Ridley. Ridley's been excellent this season with 500 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions. He's averaging 13.2 yards per reception. Ridley's second on the Falcons in receptions for first downs and Matt Ryan has a passer rating of 138.9 when targeting Ridley.

Austin Hooper doesn't get the same publicity that Jones and Ridley do, but he's been effective this season as well. Hooper is second on the Falcons in receptions with 46, which is the fourth most among tight ends in the NFL. Hooper will test Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch in the middle of the field as well as Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath down the seem.

Mohammed Sanu will be the matchup to watch for Anthony Brown in the slot. Though Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones will run routes from there on occasion, Sanu is the primary slot receiver. He ranks 22nd in the NFL in receptions and yards from the slot. Of his 45 targets, 33 have come while in the slot and 25 of his 34 receptions. When Matt Ryan throws Sanu's way, he's got a passer rating of 125.8.

And if all that wasn't bad enough, you have the Dallas Cowboys defense as one of the worst in the NFL at getting off the field on third down. The Atlanta Falcons are second in the NFL at getting off the field on third down.

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The Dallas Cowboys are likely going to give up some long drives to the Falcons, and that's ok. What they don't want to do is give up big plays to the Falcons passing attack. The Cowboys rank sixth in the NFL in red zone defense allowing teams to score on only 48.1% of their trips inside the 20 yard line. The Falcons are seventh in the league at scoring in the red zone, but have had their issues scoring touchdowns when getting inside the 20. If the Cowboys can hold them to three instead of seven, I'll count it as a successful drive for the defense.

The Dallas Cowboys defense is playing really well this season and it ranks in the top 10 in most team defensive categories. However, if they have a weakness it's been in their pass defense, primarily Awuzie and the safeties. If they want to win this game and continue to get themselves back into the playoff picture, they're going to need better performances from their defensive backs not named Byron Jones, Anthony Brown, and to a lesser extent Xavier Woods.

Facing the Atlanta Falcons prolific passing attack is a huge test for this defense and one that could define the rest of the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season.



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Game Notes

Cowboys’ Revenge Against Atlanta Hinges on These 3 Key Matchups

Brian Martin

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Cowboys' Revenge Against Atlanta Hinges on These 3 Key Matchups 1
(AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

With their seasons hanging in the balance, the Dallas Cowboys (4-5) and the Atlanta Falcons (4-5) know all too well the importance of this matchup. The Cowboys however might have a little extra incentive to win this game, revenge. The Falcons absolutely throttled them in 2017, but Dallas is looking to turn the tables on them this year.

Playing in hostile territory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium isn't the ideal place to secure a victory, but I believe the Dallas Cowboys have a excellent shot at coming out of this contest with a "W". This time around the Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith at their disposal and they should pay huge dividends. Having these two players in the lineup will certainly factor into the outcome of the game, but there are other matchups worth keeping an eye on as well.

Here are the three matchups I believe will decide the outcome of this game:

Amari Cooper vs. Falcons' Secondary

Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott and WR Amari Cooper

If the Atlanta Falcons secondary continues to play the way they've played for the majority of the 2018 season, the Dallas Cowboys should be able to find quite a bit of success in the passing game. That's why I'm expecting Quarterback Dak Prescott and his receivers to have a big game, especially Amari Cooper.

The Falcons are surprisingly giving up 294.4 passing yards a game, which happens to be third worst in the NFL. But what's more surprising is they are also the worst at defending their opponents best receiver, ranking 30th in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). That's why I think Amari Cooper could end up having his best game to date in a Cowboys uniform.

Cooper's ability to threaten an opponent's defense all over the field has already made the Cowboys offense better and that should continue to improve as his bond with Prescott develops. He has already become one of the most highly targeted WRs in the NFL since coming to Dallas and that is not only helping improve their passing game, but the running game as well.

Ezekiel Elliott vs. Falcons' Run Defense

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

As much as I'm excited about the damage Amari Cooper could do to the Falcons secondary, I'm even more excited about how dominate Ezekiel Elliott can be against Atlanta's defensive front. A lot of that has to do with the way both of these teams played in these areas a week ago, and it's a matchup that heavily favors the Cowboys.

The Cowboys are coming off their best rushing attack of the 2018 season. The offensive line completely manhandled the Philadelphia Eagles top ranked run defense last week, allowing Zeke to rush for 150+ yards. We could see a repeat performance, especially with the way the Falcons failed to stop the run last week against the Cleveland Browns.

Rookie Running Back Nick Chubb had a career day against the Falcons a week ago, amassing 176 yards and a touchdown on the ground and another 33 yards and a touchdown through the air. If that's an indication of what we can expect from Atlanta's run defense, Zeke should have a huge game. Controlling the clock with the running game would more than likely secure a much-needed victory.

Cowboys' Defense vs. Falcons' 3rd-down Offense

Byron Jones

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones

As good as a Dallas Cowboys defense has been this season, they have really struggled to get opposing offenses off the field on third down. In fact, they're currently the fourth worst third-down defense in the league, allowing offenses to convert a first down 44.07% of the time. That's not good, especially if you factor in that the Falcons convert 51.26% of their third downs, ranking second in the NFL.

The matchup between the Cowboys defense and the Falcons third-down offense could end up being the most important. Dallas absolutely have to find a way to get Matt Ryan and his offense off the field and the ball back in the hands of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. They can't allow Atlanta to get out to an early lead, because they're not a team who's built to come from behind.

Hopefully the Cowboys can capitalize on the Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott match ups (previously mentioned), that way they're play on third-down becomes less of a factor. But if it ends up being a close game, they will without a doubt have to improve their third-down defensive efficiency.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys get their revenge against the Falcons?



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