Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton is Defensive Rookie of the Year.
No rookie is in a better position to help his team immediately than Charlton -- and no team needs more help from a rookie than Dallas does from Charlton. The Cowboys recorded 36 sacks last season, a so-so figure made decidedly less relevant by the fact that opposing quarterbacks attempted 633 passes against them. Moreover, the team's leading "edge rusher" (a term I use generously), Benson Mayowa, garnered six whole sacks. Get excited. Charlton was an impact player at Michigan, a football powerhouse. He's a full-time player. He will also get every chance to play, and earn those Taco Bueno deals. Side note: They have the best bean burritos. Better than Taco Cabana or Taco Bell.
It’s a pretty bold prediction from Harrison but it’s not impossible. The Cowboys’ pass rushing woes have been lamented over and over again in the past several years. Dallas has tried multiple solutions from free agent rentals to draft picks with baggage but nothing has worked out the way they hoped.
Taco Charlton is the sole first-round pass rusher the Cowboys have drafted since taking Anthony Spencer ten years ago. He’s also the first pass rusher selected in the first round for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli since coming to the Cowboys. Taking Taco Charlton in the first round is a significant move as Marinelli has been known to be picky to the say the least.
There are two things that Harrison is dismissing though that will make it tough for Charlton to win such an award. The “no rookie is in a better position to help his team” theory would imply that Charlton is the best pass rusher on the team. Though Joey Bosa won it last year, it’s really difficult for rookie pass rushers to have success. It takes seasoning to learn how to win against the tackles in this league. Charlton wins with his combination of length and power. Going against Tyron Smith every day will certainly help his chances but there are more experienced pass rushers in front of him at this point.
The second part of that where he states that “no team needs more from a rookie than Dallas does” is debatable. There are several teams that traded up in the first round for a quarterback. A team like the Texans come to mind, where their best chance of returning to the playoffs is with their rookie quarterback, DeShaun Watson. Of course that is on offense, so maybe Elliott was limiting that comment to defense.
Though Taco makes this defense better on the depth chart, there is no guarantee that Charlton will be starting once the season begins. Marinelli is so dedicated to the idea of a solid eight-man rotation and he’s more likely to go with a veteran starting four. That would mean that Charlton would be entering the mix in certain packages. He may very well end up winning a starting job but it’s an uphill climb.
Do the Cowboys need Taco Charlton to perform well? Absolutely, they also need to help him develop as an edge rusher and that takes a little time. Also, consider that the Cowboys don’t have a single edge rusher that demands double teams as of right now. If Taco Charlton is starting on one side and DeMarcus Lawrence on the other, that’s two relatively unknown/unaccomplished commodities rushing off the edge. Bosa got the award just last year but he also had Melvin Ingram rushing on the opposite side.
In order for Taco Charlton to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, he’s going to need help from his counterparts to get there. He’ll likely need to crank out ten or more sacks and that means someone has to emerge to help him. Maybe the combination of a Maliek Collins and Stephen Paea collapsing pockets will free Charlton up to hit those kinds of numbers. Maybe Lawrence will have a breakout season in a contract year and that will help Taco’s chances. Maybe Hot-Rod will finally have the perfect eight-man rotation wreaking havoc on the league. That’s a lot of maybes but one can hope and if Harrison’s prediction comes to fruition, there will be a ton of smiling faces in Dallas. Who knows, there may even be some confetti and champagne.