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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

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

Could NY Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Could Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?

The NFC East is a wild, wild division. Since 2004, the division that hosts some of the most popular franchises in the NFL hasn't seen the same team winning the NFC East title two years in a row. It's crazy! Who expected the Dallas Cowboys to become the #1 seed in the conference in 2016 after seeing Tony Romo go down during the preseason? Who was able to predict the Philadelphia Eagles' amazing run for the Super Bowl last year?

It's an unpredictable league, but the NFC East side of things can really amaze you on a yearly basis.

Heading into 2018, it all seems to be about the Eagles and the Cowboys. Being the last two teams to win the title, it's only logical to expect them to be the only teams in the division that have what it takes to own the NFC East crown.

But maybe, just maybe, we are overlooking the New York Giants.

Coming from a 3-13 record in 2017, the Giants have quite a bit to prove if they want to become a winning team once again and return to playoff contention. With Odell Beckham missing most of the season and with good ol' Ben McAdoo calling the shots, the team was never able to get a break.

Listen, we all know Eli Manning has been struggling lately. Many thought the Giants should've drafted a quarterback when they held the #2 overall pick back in April. But whether we like it or not, New York seems to have a plan: take advantage of Manning's last years on the field.

Instead of taking a young QB for the future, they drafted the best player available to take the load off Manning's shoulders. Saquon Barkley will probably be able to do what Ezekiel Elliott was able to do in 2016: lead the offense by running the football 20 times a game and have several 100-yard performances.

Could NY Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?

New York Giants OG Will Hernandez

Not only that, but the front office did make an effort to re-build a disastrous offensive line by bringing in a talented left tackle in Nate Solder and by stealing the UTEP product, Will Hernandez in the second round of the draft. If the Giants are able to finally groom Ereck Flowers into a decent starter at right tackle, this could be a pretty solid offensive line.

Of course, Manning will not only be benefited from the running game, but his superstar wide receiver will be back on the field. Beckham is one of the NFL's best wide receivers and will surely be back at terrifying opposing secondaries week in and week out.

The Giants are bringing in Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher, who did a nice job for the Arizona Cardinals' defense over the last few years. With some talented defensive players, the team might not have the best squad in the league, but it doesn't seem like a defense that will struggle throughout the season.

Last but not least, the Giants will have a new head coach in form of Pat Shurmur. He's had some success in the league, lately as an offensive coordinator for a Minnesota Vikings team that managed to get to the NFC Championship with Case Keenum at QB. It was a good hire for the team, and I'm pretty sure it will be easy to do a better job than McAdoo's work with the Giants.

If I was to make a prediction, I'd say the Giants will have a handful of wins in 2018. However, I don't see them getting back into the postseason just yet. An 8-8 record sounds about right. Having said that, though, it really seems like a team that could surprise everyone and emerge as a surprise contender in the NFC East.

Do you think the New York Giants could be a surprise threat in 2018?

Tell me what you think about "Could NY Giants Be a Surprise Threat in the NFC East?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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

Where Cowboys CB Marquez White Fits In 2018

Kevin Brady

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Dallas Cowboys Draft CB Marquez White at #216

In the 2017 NFL Draft the Dallas Cowboys selected four new defensive backs, three of which saw significant playing time during their rookie season.

Those three, of course, are Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Xavier Woods. That fourth defensive back, however, should not be forgotten about as we enter the beginning stages of the 2018 season. That player is former Florida State cornerback Marquez White.

Rather than playing alongside his rookie counterparts in the secondary, White spent time on the Cowboys practice squad in 2017. The former sixth round pick was signed to a futures contract at the end of 2017, however, and now has a chance to compete in camp once again.

Entering their sophomore seasons the starting secondary already appears to be taking shape. Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones are just about locked in to the outside cornerback jobs, Xavier Woods is expected to start at safety beside Jeff Heath, and Jourdan Lewis is battling with now third year player Anthony Brown for the slot corner role.

So where does Marquez White fit into all of this?

Cowboys CB Marquez White Could Emerge in 2018

Dallas Cowboys CB Marquez White

Well, the aforementioned players are locks to make the 53-man roster, but Marquez White should be the favorite to win the 5th cornerback spot going forward. White's raw talent is undeniable, and he has the ability to play under both man and zone responsibilities.

The main reason we should be optimistic about Marquez White's chances to land on the final roster, however, is his athletic profile. At 6'0" tall, just under 200 pounds, and long arms White fits the mold for what new secondary coach and passing game coordinator Kris Richard tends to look for in his cornerbacks.

And, for better or for worse, Richard clearly values these measureables highly. This is evident in how second year corner Jourdan Lewis has been used thus far in mini camp and offseason activities; being relegated to second team and the slot rather than allowed to compete for an outside cornerback job with Awuzie and Jones.

So with the arrival of Kris Richard, the departure of Orlando Scandrick, the underwhelming play of Anthony Brown, and the raw talent he already possesses, Marquez White has a very strong chance of making the final 53-man roster in Dallas.



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Star Blog

Can Jaylon Smith Challenge Vander Esch For Starting MIKE Role?

Kevin Brady

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In Season For Youth, Cowboys Must Make Tough Decision On Jaylon Smith

When the Dallas Cowboys selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with their first round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the whole world basically assumed he would be the starting MIKE linebacker week one of the upcoming season.

After all, the Cowboys lost Anthony Hitchens to free agency and none of the injury replacements had much success during the 2017 season.

Now just a couple of months shy of that week one match up with the Carolina Panthers, a battle for that middle linebacker spot appears to be occurring.

Former 2016 second round pick Jaylon Smith has seemed to find his health, and his movement skills and agility look like they did back when he was at Notre Dame. Whether or not these offseason hype videos will actually mean anything on the field remains to be seen, but just the fact that Smith is working out and playing without the knee brace is obviously a good sign.

Unlike Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith did play for the Dallas Cowboys a year ago. Sure Smith had his share of growing pains, but he seemed to find his groove late in the season. It probably isn't a coincidence, though, that Smith's best games came when coming off the bench in a limited role and when playing beside veteran Sean Lee.How Will LB Jaylon Smith Best be Utilized in 2018?

During the offseason activity thus far Jaylon Smith has gotten the majority of snaps at middle linebacker, but Vander Esch has also been sidelined with an injured ankle. Leighton Vander Esch clearly fits the mold of a MIKE both physically and athletically, but at his best Jaylon Smith does as well.

Despite the resurgence of Jaylon Smith and the injury to Leighton Vander Esch, I still do expect Vander Esch to snag that MIKE role moving forward. While showing glimpses of productive play, Smith did not impress enough to earn him the unquestioned starting job last season, and may best fit as a SAM backer and situational pass rusher/blitzer in the current scheme.

Allowing Jaylon Smith to conserve his energy and provide a boost off the bench is the best way for the Cowboys to structure their defense. Of course, this is only true as long as Vander Esch becomes the player they expect him to be, though.

If Jaylon Smith does return to the player he was at Notre Dame prior to his horrific injury, the Cowboys will possess three incredibly rangy, athletic, and talented linebackers on their roster.

Of course, that if is a very big if at this point, however.



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