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Have The Cowboys Misused Rookie DE Taco Charlton?

Sean Martin

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Have The Cowboys Misused Rookie Taco Charlton?

When it comes to the NFL Draft, two of the most important things teams must do to set their board right is properly evaluate their own roster beforehand and have a vision for any potential draft picks in their schemes. While nobody had a problem with the Dallas Cowboys addressing their pass rush in the first round of the 2017 Draft, their selection of Michigan DE Taco Charlton has been criticized from the start - mainly because of the failures it has presented in both of these crucial areas.

Taco Charlton has yet to record his first sack with the Cowboys, seeing a decrease in playing time each week as he's seemingly been left without a spot in Rod Marinelli's rotation of defensive linemen.

2017 DE Taco Charlton Vs Ohio State - Streamable

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I graded Taco Charlton as a second round left defensive end, a safe player that could make an immediate impact as a tough run defender at LDE. Instead, the Cowboys passed on rushers with much higher ceilings like T.J. Watt or Tyus Bowser to draft Charlton and immediately try to sell Cowboys Nation on his ability at RDE.

It is this void at RDE that has forced the Cowboys to throw Taco into a position where he has little chance to succeed. Rookie pass rushers often face an uphill battle adjusting to the next level, but asking Charlton to beat left tackles to the quarterback right now is a lost cause for Dallas.

Taco Charlton Vs Giants - Streamable

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Taco Charlton completely lacks the change-of-direction skills or lower body bend to pressure the quarterback from this weak side. Overall, there are very few consistent positives on tape for Taco through five games.

Taco Charlton Vs Rams - Streamable

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Charlton's strengths have been his upper body power and ability as an inside rusher on twists. This is why he is an ideal LDE, where the Cowboys have their best defensive player in DeMarcus Lawrence wrecking games at 8.5 sacks on the season.

It was this lack of faith in Lawrence off of another back surgery that has put the Cowboys in a position to see Taco Charlton essentially red shirt his rookie campaign as the 28th overall pick.

On the above play, Charlton is able to stack and shed against the tight end from the RDE position, making a strong play against the run. Notice the way #97 lines up prior to the snap, shadowing the TE in a position that is rarely seen from any weak side linemen.

This is yet another part of Taco Charlton's game that would translate ideally to the LDE position, where the snaps simply haven't been there for an under-performing first year player.

2017 DE Taco Charlton Vs Wisconsin - Streamable

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As we look at another example from Charlton at Michigan, we are reminded again that winning off the edge has been a rare occurrence ever since his days in the BIG 10 - where Taco looked the part of a menacing DE and ultimately had the Cowboys take the bait. Lined up again at RDE here, Taco's patented clunky spin move does allow him to get into the face of the QB thanks to his length.

Taco Charlton Vs Giants - Streamable

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Utilizing this length has been an issue for Charlton in taking the next step at a position that does not fit his skill set. The Dallas Cowboys lack a true penetrating 1T DT, meaning that once LTs work inside of Charlton on the move there is little room for him to fight off blocks and get to the football.

It is very difficult to understand what the Cowboys' vision for Taco Charlton has been all along. DeMarcus Lawrence's resurgence is not the issue here, as he'll hit free agency after the season. By the end of 2017, the Cowboys may feel they have his replacement at LDE in Taco Charlton - where he will have a real chance to become a completely different player in year two.

The snaps are not there at either LDE or DT for Charlton right now though, and misusing the physical run-stopper on the weak side of the line has potentially only damaged his confidence and heightened the issues this Cowboys team has getting to the quarterback at the defensive end position.

Taco Charlton Vs Broncos - Streamable

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It is big runs like these allowed by Dallas that warrant every bit of frustration towards the decision to overdraft Taco Charlton. Lined up at RDE just to catch another block turning towards the football, Lawrence loses leverage at LDE to leave Sean Lee against two blockers as a last line of defense before this run busts down the sideline.

Taco Charlton is a Dallas Cowboy. While there are still followers of this team that do not want to accept this, the hope that the Cowboys can continue their terrific run of hitting on first round picks in 2017 with Charlton will rest on how well they put him in position to succeed.

The most sacks ever recorded by a rookie defensive lineman in Dallas is 4.5, as Russell Maryland reached this total in 1991 as that season's first overall pick. With defensive ends, these investments take time - and more importantly they take commitment.

Tell us what you think about "Have The Cowboys Misused Rookie DE Taco Charlton?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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2 Comments
  • Gbear

    FO is trying to be safe, it’s like they have their thumbs up their butts and are afraid. Why oh why. I know why, not a lot has worked out (Hardy). They’ve allowed Wash. and Philly to match and surpass talent. That leaves coaching and we all know that means no help there.

  • Jason Waltner

    Idk what they were thinking. I had Taco pegged as a 34 3Tech. I get that no 1st RD pick that late is a true 1st rd grade but I wanted Rueben Foster to start to build the LB depth. My fav DE was Jordan Willis. Carl Lawson would had been a better option. Bet we were getting calls to move down where we could had gotten Foster and a mid Rd to get Lawson or Willis.

Star Blog

QB Dak Prescott Continues To Come Through In Clutch Situations

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott Continues To Be Money In Clutch Si

Dak Prescott is possibly the most criticized quarterback in all of football.

Of course, this comes with the territory of being the Cowboys starting quarterback, but each throw Prescott attempts is placed under an intense microscope, even by NFL standards. We analyze every snap of every game, looking to find where Dak was right or wrong with this reads.

There's no question, though, that Prescott has been inconsistent throughout his young career. Week to week, drive to drive, and even play to play, we seemingly have no gauge on just how Dak Prescott will perform.

One scenario where we can say with confidence he will come through, however, is when it matters most. Last Sunday, in yet another must-win game for the Dallas Cowboys, Prescott orchestrated a game winning drive to lead his team over the favored Atlanta Falcons.

The Cowboys offense was pedestrian for much of the afternoon, but when Prescott got the ball in a tied game, I felt confident he would give Brett Maher a chance to win the game. Even on the road, and even after the offense had struggled a bit through the air all day.

Prescott got the ball late in the fourth quarter, looking to answer former NFL MVP Matt Ryan's game tying touchdown strike to Julio Jones. Dak went for it all on the first play, looking for Michael Gallup deep down the sideline, but the ball fell incomplete. After that throw, Prescott went 4/5 for 45 yards, including a huge completion to Cole Beasley, putting Dallas in game winning field goal range.

This confidence in Dak Prescott is justified, as is shown by his numbers in late game situations. Prescott now has 12 game winning drives, tying him for the league lead over the last three seasons. For comparison sake, Eagles starter Carson Wentz has just 3 game winning drives over that same stretch.

Overall the box score shows a rather quiet day for Prescott, but it was exactly the kind of Sunday they need from him. He completed over 60% of his passes, ran for a touchdown, and avoided the key turnover which could have sung this close game.

He played efficient football, and gave the Cowboys a chance to win it late. Then, he did what he does best, making plays in clutch situations and coming through in the 2 minute drill.

For all of Dak Prescott's flaws, those end-of-half and end-of-game situations have been a clear strength for the young quarterback, and continued to be this week.



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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.

Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.

Cambios de Coach

A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.

A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.

Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?

El Draft

A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.

A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.

En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.

Decisiones difíciles

La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.

Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.

Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.

No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración" 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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Star Blog

Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.

Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.

Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.

Here's why those people are wrong.

Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.

Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).

Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.

There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.

Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.

Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.

Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.

Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.

And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.



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