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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

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

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

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

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

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

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

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

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

Seahawks’ Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar

John Williams

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Seahawks' Tight End Will Dissly Flying Under the Radar

The Seattle Seahawks are in need of a big win this weekend to stay a game or two back of the NFC West leading Los Angeles Rams. The Dallas Cowboys hope to extend their one game winning streak to two, but to do that, they'll have to win certain matchups on both sides of the football. One player that the Dallas Cowboys will have to be aware of and contain is rookie Tight End Will Dissly.

With Doug Baldwin injured in week one and out week two, other players have had to step up in their lead wide receiver's absence.

Brandon Marshall and Tyler Lockett are the names that most everyone will recognize, but Dissly, is the name that Cowboys Nation should keep an eye on come Sunday.

Dissly, drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Washington, came into the season with a reputation as a blocking back. Dane Brugler, of The Athletic, had Dissly ranked 98th overall and as the ninth ranked tight end in the draft. Just one spot behind Dallas Cowboys rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz.

Here is what Brugler had to say in his 2018 NFL Draft Guide.

"A one-year starter at Washington, Dissly spent his first two years at Washington on defense and his final two years on offense, lining up inline and wing in the Huskies’ offense. He was a blocker-first and receiver-second in college, which was a role he embraced with his hard-nosed toughness and competitive edge. Dissly uses his upper body power and base strength in unison to control the point of attack, displaying the core flexibility and length to keep defenders busy. While he flashed reliable hand/eye coordination and run power after the catch, he lacks the route-running experience or athletic deception to consistently uncover. Overall, Dissly is a project as a pass-catcher, but he will contribute early in his NFL career as an inline blocker and sixth offensive lineman."

Dane Brugler - Dane Brugler's 2018 NFL Draft Guide

To say that it comes as a surprise at Dissly's start to his rookie campaign would be a huge understatement. A Brugler notes, there was a chance he'd contribute early as a blocking specialist, but was thought to be a project in the passing game. He's been a big play threat in the first two games of the season, already taking the lead in Seattle Seahawks TE snap distribution at 65%.

Among tight ends, Dissly's is tied for 12th in the NFL in targets with 10, tied for 17th in receptions with six, fourth in the NFL in receiving yards, tied for first with 2 touchdown receptions, third in yards per reception at 24.5, third in yards after the catch with 90, is tied for fifth with five receptions for first downs, sixth in yards per route run, and hasn't dropped a pass this season. He's averaging five targets, three receptions, 73.5 yards, and a touchdown per game. He's been targeted twice out of the slot and has two receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown while playing 46% of his snaps from the slot.

When Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted his rookie tight end, he has a passer rating of 143.8.

He's been way more than they could have hoped.

Here's what SB Nation' Seattle Seahawks blog Field Gulls had to say about Will Dissly after the Seattle Seahawks week one loss to the Denver Broncos.

"Hot damn! Who saw that coming? Was that Will Dissly or a prime Jeremy Shockey? 3 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown for someone drafted primarily for his blocking abilities. Seattle has a new weapon on offense, and I doubt anyone saw that coming."

Mookie Alexander - Field Gulls, SB Nation 

It's likely that nobody, including the Denver Broncos or the Chicago Bears, saw Dissly's breakout coming this soon. Now with it on tape, the Dallas Cowboys will have their eye on Will Dissly.

Russell Wilson doesn't have a ton of established -- or still good -- wide receivers at his disposal, but Will Dissly looks like a fourth round steal for the Seahawks.

The Dallas Cowboys' linebackers will be tested on Sunday.

Four of Dissly's six receptions have come against linebackers, including a 34 yard reception (19 yards after the catch) against Chicago Bears' Linebacker Danny Trevathan and a 66 yard reception (52 YAC) against Denver Broncos Outside Linebacker Bradley Chubb.

The Dallas Cowboys seem fully capable of matching up with good receiving tight ends as Jaylon Smith showed on Sunday. Smith showed an ability to run with Odell Beckham Jr. in coverage on Sunday. No small task. We know that Sean Lee is good in coverage. Leighton Vander Esch's best trait coming out of Boise State is his coverage ability. I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Dallas Cowboys matchup Xavier Woods and Anthony Brown with the athletic tight end when he's lined up in the slot.

How the Dallas Cowboys defense does in coverage against the rookie tight end could be a major key to the game. With names like Brandon Marshall, Tyler Lockett, and Rashad Penny to keep an eye on, someone like Will Dissly could be easily forgotten.

You're going to hear his name called on Sunday. Let's just hope it's more for what he did weeks one and two.



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Star Blog

Xavier Woods Among Cowboys with Something to Prove in Seattle

John Williams

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The Earl Thomas trade rumors have been relentless this offseason. We've heard about them. I've written about them, and for better or worse, they just won't stop. No doubt Dallas Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods has heard them as well.

When Woods went down with his hamstring injury and as Earl Thomas continued his hold out, the clamor for Thomas grew louder and louder.

Per reports, it looks like Woods is set to make his 2018 debut. With a good game against the Seattle Seahawks, he can put a silence to the trade rumors.

I've been a proponent of making the deal for Earl Thomas all offseason. From the time he came running down the tunnel toward the Dallas Cowboys locker room, I've been all aboard the Earl Thomas hype train. Opportunities to add All-Pro players don't come along very often and if you're hoping to win football games in the short term, like the Dallas Cowboys are, you make the move.

My opinion isn't a knock on Xavier Woods, who was good as a rookie last year. He was especially good when asked to play in the slot early in the 2017 season. It has more to do with Woods still being a bit of an unknown and Thomas being a known quantity.

Xavier Woods has shown potential to be a really good safety in this league. In college, he played a lot of single high safety and played it very well. He has a knack for making plays on the football and can be a game changer for the Dallas Cowboys.

If the Dallas Cowboys can come away with a victory in Seattle, facing the player that the Dallas Cowboys have been linked to for months, and Woods has a good game in the process, then all of this will go away.

Heading into Sunday, Xavier Woods isn't the only player on the Dallas Cowboys roster who has something to prove.

Two Wide Receivers

The Cowboys added another wide receiver this week when they resigned free agent Brice Butler. I agree with Inside The Star Staff Writer Jess Haynie that adding Butler doesn't make a ton of sense, but it definitely adds question marks to the wide receiver room, in particular wide receivers Terrance Williams and Allen Hurns.

These two wide receivers were expected to be the starters on the outside and the primary targets, aside from Wide Receiver Cole Beasley, and yet, they've failed to have much of an impact in either of the two games in the 2018 season.

Take a look at their stat lines.

  • Allen Hurns: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 29 yards, 0 touchdowns, on 55% of the team's offensive snaps.
  • Terrance Williams: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 18 yards, 0 touchdowns on 25% of the snaps.

Those two are tied for fifth in receptions through two weeks of the season. Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson has found himself as a favorite target of Quarterback Dak Prescott through the first two games and has seven receptions for 60 yards.

With now seven wide receivers on the roster, there are less snaps to go around and with the increase in playing time for Tavon Austin and Michael Gallup, Terrance Williams may have already found himself as the odd man out. Brice Butler complicates things further for Williams and may eat into Allen Hurns snap count as well.

Now it looks like Terrance Williams is facing a suspension. If the suspension comes down before Sunday, he's going to really have a hard time finding a role on this team when he comes back.

Brandon George on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys WR Terrance Williams faces suspension stemming from May arrest for public intoxication https://t.co/of11Xlb7wD via @sportsdaydfw

If he comes back. 

Defensive End Making a Comeback

Things started out really well for returning Defensive End Randy Gregory. During the preseason he flashed the tools that made him a highly coveted player before his failed drug test at the NFL Combine.

Unfortunately the start of his 2018 season was derailed due to a concussion early in the Carolina Panthers game forcing him to miss week two.

In his place, Taco Charlton emerged as an impact player on the right side of the defensive line. Charlton has played the most defensive snaps of any defensive end through the first two games of the season; DeMarcus Lawrence included. Taco went from a 73% snap share in week one to an 83% snap share in week two. It's obvious that he's earned his snaps and the coaching staff wants to get him on the field.

This doesn't even begin to mention the contributions by rookie fourth round pick Dorance Armstrong, who like Charlton, saw a 10% snap increase from week one to week two and played really well when in the game.

This is a bit of a problem for Randy Gregory. Yes, he flashed in the preseason and early in the Carolina game, but the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and Gregory hasn't done much of anything in the regular season, yet.

Coming into the Seahawks game, Gregory is going to have to earn back some of those snaps. By all accounts he has a chance to be an elite defensive end on the right side of the Dallas Cowboys defense, but he has to prove that he can stay on the field and effective when on it.

He needs to shine in week three.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Who are your players with something to prove heading into the week three matchup with the Seattle Seahawks? Let us know in the comment section. 



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Star Blog

How The Seattle Seahawks Have Increased Importance In Cowboys’ Lore

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys At Seattle Seahawks: 5 Bold Predictions
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

You can't talk about this decade's Dallas Cowboys without discussing the Seattle Seahawks.

In 2012, when Golden Tate took out Sean Lee on a crack-back block and the Seahawks embarrassed a Cowboys team who had just defeated the defending champion New York Giants, we saw which of the two teams was truly ready for the big stage.

In 2014, as Rolando McClain intercepted Russell Wilson and the Cowboys clinched a critical road victory, we knew that Dallas was a legit contender.

In 2015, when Seattle finally came to Dallas and rendered the return of Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant meaningless in a 13-12 win, the then 2-5 Cowboys were sent further into a Romo-less abyss.

And, in 2017, Dez Bryant's key drops and Dan Bailey's missed field goals during a horrendous home loss to the Seahawks on Christmas Eve might have sealed each of their fates for the following offseason.

The most important moment in this Cowboys/Seahawks history, however, occurred during a preseason game. A meaningless preseason game which turned out to be the most meaningful day in recent Cowboys history.

Cliff Avril dragging Tony Romo down from behind, effectively ending his career, and kicking off the roster massive turnover we have seen the last two offseasons. From Dak Prescott, to a brand new secondary, to the retirement of Jason Witten, and the cutting of Dez Bryant. All of this change, which put an end to the Romo era rosters in Dallas, began with that hit in Seattle.

Since 2012 the Cowboys, and the rest of the NFC really, have been judged by how they play against two teams: the Packers and the Seahawks.

They have been the class of the NFC, and while we like to think that if the "Dez Caught It" game went how it should have Dallas would've handled Seattle, that will forever be an unknown.

Sunday's game is not expected to carry the franchise-changing implications that some of these other match ups have had. The Seahawks are 0-2 and reeling, with a shaky offensive line and reported distrust throughout the organization.The Cowboys, however, can jump-start their season with a big road win over a winless team that they should beat in the minds of many.

But knowing how things between these teams tend to go, Sunday afternoon may end up having major implications on the rest of the Cowboys' season.

Where this could be the case is in a potential Earl Thomas trade. It's been speculated that Seattle has been hesitant to deal Thomas to Dallas before their week 3 match up, but could be more willing to do so after the game.

Especially if that game is a loss which sends them to 0-3. The Cowboys have been actively pursuing Earl Thomas, and Thomas has certainly made it clear that he wants to be in Dallas. The only party not willing to make it happen thus far, are the Seahawks.

So, this weekend, there is a chance another chapter is added to those franchise-changing moments in Cowboys/Seahawks lore.



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