The Cowboys got started on Saturday by sticking to the theme that began on Friday: D-E-F-E-N-S-E.
The 2015 Dallas Cowboys featured a pass rush that could almost be described as criminally negligent and little has happened thus far in the offseason to strike fear into the hearts of Eli Manning, Kirk Cousins, or whomever emerges as the passer in Philadelphia. The front office took a step toward rectifying that issue by drafting Charles Tapper, the first team All-Big XII defensive end out of the University of Oklahoma. (The Texan in me wants to ask "What, they still have a team?") The time has come to look at how Tapper fits into Rod Marinelli's plans.
The incoming defensive linemen will get a chance to step up early. Tapper, at this stage, is a part of the rotation and not the answer the Dallas coaches are looking for. His performance during training camp and how well he is able to take advantage of his expanded opportunities granted by the suspensions of Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence will determine just how much of a part of the rotation he will be. On paper there is much to like.
Tapper brings 4.59 speed to the table along with a 271 pound frame. He combines strength with athleticism and uses that to his advantage, which may catch opposing linemen off guard early on. If Charles can develop his technique, it will go a long way to getting him on the field more often and allow him to make an impact on the defense. Look for him more in passing situations where he can pin his ears back and use his athletic ability to beat opponents.
Tapper is in a great situation for an athlete who came to the game late in life. He played football for the first time as a high school junior. Rod Marinelli is the master of teaching technique to defensive lineman and that corresponds to Tapper's greatest need. As he learns to play the position look for the former Sooner to greatly increase his role in the Dallas defense. Give him a season or two and Charles will deliver sacks on a scale of what he was able to do at Oklahoma. He will make a solid counter-point to whomever emerges as the pass rusher on the other end of the defensive line.
It was obvious at the Senior Bowl that Prescott had something that the Dallas offensive coaches liked. Perhaps it was that he shares some traits with current quarterback Tony Romo. Whatever it was, Jason Garrett and his staff took to the Mississippi State Bulldog.
It is tempting to write 'not a darned thing' for the short term, but that is not true. The most significant thing Prescott can do this season is learn. He has three former quarterbacks as coaches; Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Wade Wilson. Add to the mix a savvy veteran passer in Tony Romo and Dak is getting ready for a post-graduate education in quarterbacking. Perhaps the most significant thing that fans will see this season is Prescott making the final start of the preseason. That will mean that he has impressed the coaching staff enough to enter the season as the team's QB2.
The log term outlook for Dak Prescott depends on what the team sees in him. Will he be a career backup or will he become the heir? I am betting on the latter. Dallas was too sold on him to get as wrapped up as they did for a reserve passer. Either way, Prescott should anticipate plenty of time to learn. Three, maybe four years from now the Cowboys might find themselves in the enviable situation that Green Bay did with gentlemen named Favre and Rodgers. One thing is certain, you can count on Tony Romo investing in Prescott in a way that Brett Favre never did in Aaron Rodgers.
Dak Prescott may be the most fortunate of all the quarterbacks drafted this season. He will benefit from the unique opportunity.