Has Taco Charlton turned the corner? This appears to be a make-or-break season for the Dallas Cowboys’ former first rounder.
The reviews on the Dallas Cowboys first round pick in the 2017 NFL draft were generally very positive. Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, Walter Football, NFL.com and the Ringer all gave instant analysis with a grade better than B.
Now two years later, most Cowboys fans lament passing on current Pittsburgh Steeler edge rusher T.J. Watt for former Michigan defensive end Vidauntae “Taco” Charlton. Watt has twenty career sacks compared to Charlton’s four after two seasons.
NFL.com recently regraded the 2017 first round and passed out a D- to the Cowboys. The Steelers unsurprisingly received an A.
What has likely been forgotten is that Taco Charlton was not a finished product when he entered the NFL draft. He was a one-year starter for the Wolverines and was drafted for his measurables namely his long armed 6-foot-6 frame.
Entering his third season, Charlton needs to show the Cowboys coaches that he has become a legitimate pass rushing threat. In the words of former head coach Bill Parcells, potential means you haven’t done anything yet.
It took Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence until his fourth season before he converted his potential into performance establishing himself as a premier pass rushing threat. Through three seasons, Lawrence had 9.0 sacks and sixteen starts.
Charlton, to give him credit, is aware that he has underwhelmed so far in his career. After the first preseason game, he reflected on his current state. Here’s what Taco said during a press interview that was posted to the Dallas Cowboys’ official YouTube channel.
“A lot of people don’t like me as is. I gave up trying to win that game. No matter if I do good, they’re going to say he’s bad. If I do bad, they’re going to say he’s terrible. I don’t try to win that game no more … I gave up on that … People’s minds are already made up about me … They just want an excuse to justify the fact they never liked me in the first place … I’m happy with myself.”
Since the first preseason game, Charlton has played like a man motivated to make the team. According to Pro Football Focus, he grades out as the third highest pass rusher with a minimum of 40 attempts through week three of the preseason.
The Cowboys know what they have in defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. They hope that Robert Quinn can complement Lawrence when he returns from his two-game suspension.
Second year player Dorance Armstrong has flashed in training camp and free agent pickup Kerry Hyder has earned a spot in the rotation. Charlton will have every opportunity to carve out a role along the deep Dallas defensive line during the first two games.
Taco Charlton will need to build on his preseason performance against the Texans where he recorded two sacks, forced two fumbles recovering one of them and even batted a ball down at the line of scrimmage. If this Taco shows up in the regular season, Cowboys fans may finally forget about T.J. Watt.