[Ed. Note: Heavy GIFs coming, stay patient if you get a slow load.]
After an incredible and fun regular season, the Dallas Cowboys went into the off-season with two objectives in mind in order to take the next step:
1.) Bolster the pass rush.
2.) Improve the secondary.
We spent the first part of this series on Chidobe Awuzie, who is expected to play a major role in those two objectives. The former Colorado safety has the ability to play all over the field, something that will greatly improve the Cowboys’ defense for years to come.
Taco Charlton, the 28th selection of April’s draft, is set to bolster the Dallas Cowboys pass rush. While he is not the fastest coming off the edge, Charlton has many of the tools necessary to become a force for the Dallas Cowboys’ defense.
Charlton, a 6’6” and 273 pound edge rusher, is coming off the best season of his career. He was rated as a 4-star recruit coming out of high school, but he truly began flashing his real potential during his senior campaign in Ann Arbor. His stats for his first three years were decidedly average.
As a true freshman, Chartlon played for the Wolverines under head coach Brady Hoke. In his first season, Charlton was forced to compete for playing time. He appeared in two games, where he accounted for two tackles — one solo, one assisted.
In year two, Charlton saw his numbers improve. As a sophomore, he played in nine games and recorded fourteen solo tackles, assisted on five more, and brought down the quarterback 3.5 times for the Wolverines. With more playing time, Charlton showed he had the potential to grow into a force on the defensive line.
Before Charlton’s junior season at Michigan, the Wolverines decided to make a change at head coach. The university made a splash by hiring former San Francisco 49ers head man Jim Harbaugh. Under Harbaugh, Charlton continued to grow. Season number three in Ann Arbor saw more improvement from the Ohio native. Charlton racked up 30 total tackles — 21 solo, 9 assisted — got to the quarterback 5.5 times, and even forced a fumble. As his playing time went up, so did the productivity.
Taco truly earned himself a lot of cash during his final campaign as a Wolverine.
Taco appeared in the same amount of games as his junior season — eleven — but his numbers continued to rise under the tutelage of Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don Brown. He recorded 20 solo tackles, 20 assisted tackles, got to the quarterback 10 times, and even deflected two passes. His senior season saw him rising up the draft boards, coming in as the one of the best available edge rushers on many boards
Back in Janurary, Mel Kiper had great things to say about Taco Charlton, according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press:
"Charlton, to me, the way he played when he came back from missing those couple games, he was remarkable," Kiper said on a conference call today, at one point calling him the best rush end in the draft, a claim he later softened. "Finished it off strong against Florida State, as well. I have him at 19 -- he could very easily go earlier than that -- say, 7-to-12, 7-to-15 area."
"Charlton plays with good leverage for his height (6-5) and has active hands and an incredible wingspan. I'm curious what he'll measure at the combine. He can play on his feet, too, which means he could fit in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. The Bucs took Noah Spence in the second round last year, and he improved in their 4-3 as the season progressed (5.5 sacks). Charlton would be a great pick."
But, of course, Kiper’s stance changed when he graded Dallas’ 2017 draft haul.
Nonetheless, the one game that stands out the most from Taco Charlton’s career was his exceptional performance against Ohio State in front of a national audience.
Michigan and Ohio State are, of course, heated rivals and is always one of the games to watch during the college football season. Taco made sure to leave his mark in this game.
Taco brings many things to the table, which is why Dallas decided to spend a first-round pick on the EDGE from Michigan. For all of the hype that defensive ends receive for rushing the passer and getting to the quarterback — and deservedly so — Charlton shows that he has the ability to play the run, too.
In this clip below, Charlton shows the ability to get off the block and get to speedy Curtis Samuel. He is able to get out of his stance quickly and shows the burst to bring down a smaller, quicker player.
Charlton even shows his hustle and that he can make a tackle in space:
While Charlton will improve the run defense, Dallas drafted him to bolster the pass rush. In this next clip, Taco uses his hands to get by the offensive tackle and get to the quarterback. Cowboys fans everywhere are drooling over the sight of this:
Here, in a tight game with his arch-rival, Chartlon blows right by Ohio State offensive tackle Isaiah Prince and brings J.T. Barrett down. More of this, please.
The Cowboys’ newest addition to the defensive line shined in the Orange Bowl, too. He seems to like the bigger games.
On this play, Taco hits the spin move and forces Deondre Francois to rush his throw:
Charlton beats Roderick Johnson — a fifth-round selection in this past draft — and again, continues to put pressure on Florida State.
In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys made do with what they had on the defensive line. Rod Marinelli’s “orphans” played pretty well for most of the season, but there needs to be improvement. With the questions surrounding Randy Gregory, the departure of Jack Crawford to Atlanta, and now the reported suspension of David Irving, Taco Charlton will be asked to contribute and deliver early and often for the Dallas Cowboys during the upcoming season.
If his college career is any indication, Taco’s ceiling is very, very high. His best days on the defensive line are in front of him. Whether it is helping stop LeGarrette Blount or pressuring Eli Manning, expect Taco Charlton to have a very solid season for the Dallas Cowboys.