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Cowboys’ Charles Tapper: ”I can tell you nobody beat my speed for defensive ends at 270 pounds.”

Charles Tapper is excited to finally put the pads back on and get to work after a long road back.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Minicamp Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

At the NFFC event this weekend, we caught up with Charles Tapper who had a long first year in the National Football League, spending his entire rookie season on injured reserve. After being out of football for a year, training camp can’t come soon enough for the pass rusher. When asked about his goals, they were pretty simple ones for now:

“Right now, I just want to go out there and play. I want to make plays in training camp because if you don’t make plays in training camp, it just defeats the purpose.”

Tapper was diagnosed with a pre-existing back injury known as a pars defect which is a defect or stress fracture in your vertebrae. Though it sounds scary, it’s not uncommon for athletes to have it and play with it. Charles Tapper is feeling as fresh and ready to go as you possibly can:

“I’m feeling light, I’m ready to get with Coach Marinelli and get it going on the first day. I’m feeling great, I’m ready, locked and loaded. I’m stronger than I was last year. I’m just even more ready to get going with Marinelli.”

Tapper is chomping at the bit to get around his teammates and start preparing for the season. He was taken back by just the sheer fact that training camp is but a few days away. It’s been a long process for Tapper and the feeling of being ready to play is not lost on him:

“Man, it’s like unreal that I’m back in training camp. It’s unreal because I haven’t been in college, I've missed a whole year of football. I’m restarting everything back over, so like, that excitement is really there. I’m getting the jitters like I’m about to play a game. I think we get to start back a little early with the rookies, I’m just excited to put my pads on again. I feel like a rookie again. All these veterans are having fun with it, like, ‘Tap, you played yet?’ I haven’t played yet so I’m excited to have a chance to prove myself.”

Charles Tapper’s biggest attribute coming out of the draft was his speed. He ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at 270 lbs. He was asked about what he’s been doing since minicamp concluded:

“Run. Like coach said: You can lift all you want, try to make up some work out for yourself but running and doing defensive drills are very important for defensive guys. We had a D-Line crew and we were doing a lot of speed-rushing drills, attacking the edges, I just got to pick up on all these things now. It’s about running and getting ready for special teams too. That conditioning is important.”

While Tapper was on injured reserve and rehabbing for 2017, he was joined by another redshirt defender the Cowboys are excited about. Jaylon Smith and Charles Tapper formed a bond and Tapper knows they’re both in the same boat. They get asked all the time about their historic Cowboys’ draft class of 2016 and it’s importance. Tapper knows that he and Smith can make the draft class perhaps the best ever if they live up to the expectations:

“We talked about it a little bit when we all first came in and stuff. But now, we’re locked in on trying to make this thing a reality instead of just a dream. We haven’t really discussed it all that much because me and Jaylon obviously haven’t hit the field yet and balled out with these other guys. So, I guess, you’ll know when we hit the field and we all get together. When me and Jaylon prove what we’re supposed to prove then we can talk about a dynasty that we’re trying to build.”

Tapper went on to tell us all what we can expect from Jaylon Smith when he gets his opportunity to hit the field:

“Man, he’s explosive...You’re going to see a lot of explosive energy. Every time someone talks about him, it’s like adding fuel to the fire. When I see him running and going through camp without the pads and stuff...I was like, man, if he could have connected on that hit, it would be a big hit. So, like I said, as soon as we get these pads on, we’re going to put it on each other.”

As explosive as Jaylon Smith can be, Tapper also has the attributes to develop into an explosive pass rusher. He’s by far the fasted defensive end the Cowboys have and fits the mold of what Marinelli typically looks for in a right end. Tapper touched on his explosive abilities and what he brings to the table:

“I bring a lot of speed but I also bring power that people don’t know about. At Oklahoma, I showed power when I was at 290 lbs but I couldn’t showcase my speed. Now, I can’t wait to showcase my speed and versatility as a pass rusher.”

With the Cowboys’ needs at pass rusher, Tapper has a great opportunity in front of him to improve the team. Though they have struggled to maintain a consistent pass rush, Tapper is confident in his teammates:

“I feel like we have a lot of good pass rushers. Last year, we feel, at times, our defensive line performed at a high level. We’re trying to chase some of those guys. We’re missing Terrell McClain and Jack Crawford, two guys with high energy that brought ‘oomph’ to our DL. That’s our defensive line, it’s unreal that guys were even pushing those guys in practice. It’s about running to the ball, trying to get sacks, don’t give up on plays. We got to chase those guys and even show up on special teams, run up and down the field trying to make big hits.”

Lastly, Tapper was asked about this year’s draft and how some guys had lackluster performances at the Combine. A lot of the teams got nervous about those performances. Still, the Cowboys did take a pass rusher in the first round but that doesn’t intimidate Tapper or his ability to contribute:

“I mean, we’re competitors, so we look at the performances but I can tell you nobody beat my speed for defensive ends at 270 pounds. I still have that and I'm proud of it.”

It’s a very young defense with a lot of guys trying to carve out roles for themselves. For Charles Tapper, he’s feeling like a rookie but definitely has a veteran swagger to him. The Cowboys are excited about these redshirt players because they really can become difference makers on a defense that is anything but settled yet.

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