When Taco Charlton was selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys, the fan base was not universally pleased. It definitely divided the fans, many didn’t see Charlton as a pass-rushing right defensive end, something the Cowboys really need. Then training camp came along, and the early reviews of Charlton’s play were, let’s say, slightly negative. Of course, he’s just a rookie, he’s just learning his position in terms of NFL play, and he was going against some pretty good players. But that didn’t stop the whispering. Tonight Taco has a chance to change perception.
In reality, the only perception that matters belongs to Jason Garrett and Rod Marnelli. Early in camp, even Taco admits he wasn’t playing fundamental football.
“I had my struggles Day 1, but now I’m doing fine,” Charlton said. “I basically didn’t keep my feet up under me. I was too ready to hit something that I wasn’t keeping my feet. As days went on I got better. Things improved. The pass rush improved. Moves improved and I started winning more.”
"I told him, every rookie, everything you've done doesn't work," Marinelli said. "You have to have a base and then your basics and then you go over and over and over. You just have to let that last rep go. What happens is you start losing one, losing one and you start going into the tank and making stuff up and you get away from your fundamentals and then it's downhill."
It would seem Taco can take coaching. By all accounts, he has improved since the beginning, and is now getting his fair share of wins during practice. But nothing breeds confidence in a player, and about a player, than winning while playing in a game-like situation. That’s what he’ll be faced with tonight. There are a lot of players to watch in the game in Ohio on Thursday night, but many eyes will be trained on Charlton. And not just random Cowboys fans, but some people close to Charlton.
Charlton might have starred at the University of Michigan, but the Cowboys’ first-round draft pick grew up across state lines in Pickerington, Ohio, about two hours from Canton – the site of Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game against the Arizona Cardinals.
“It’ll probably be a lot (of family and friends) there to support, and if not, then a lot will be back home supporting and definitely calling right after,” he said.
As a first-round pick, a lot of pressure will be on Charlton to perform. He knows that, but feels like he’s prepared and can handle the job. He would also like to remind everybody:
Don't believe everything said— Taco Charlton (@TheSupremeTaco) July 31, 2017
He’s been getting some negative reviews in camp from the press, but one guy rides him more than anybody else.
“He has said that once or twice,” Charlton said of the “Taquito” crack from Marinelli. “He gets after me. He likes what he sees. He tries to get me to do things and try different moves and expand my repertoire.”
Tonight will be our first real chance to see Taco as a pro. It won’t be the end-all for Taco if he fails to perform well, but he will have a chance to silence some of the noise around his draft selection and his early practices with a solid performance.