Crabbs: Time for Cowboys fans to warm up to Taco Charlton

Mark Lomoglio/Icon Sportwire

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And with the 28th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select…Taco Charlton?

As the pick was announced, months of anticipation seemed to crumble from collective Cowboys fans across the globe. Many had their hearts set on Wisconsin rush linebacker T.J. Watt, who went just two picks later to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the weeks that have passed since the opening round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Cowboys fans have voiced their dismay with the selection of Charlton.

I’m here to help.

Charlton, much as Cowboys assistant director of player personnel Will McClay has asserted in the days after the draft, fits the mold of a defensive end. The key quote from McClay?

“When I turn on the tape to watch him, I saw him do athletic things that guys who are 6-foot-5, 270 pounds with 34-inch arms shouldn’t be able to do.”

The sentiment echoes much of what I saw from him on film. He is a good two inches taller than many of the tackles he faced this season; yet, he is able to drop the shoulder and win with leverage. He has very impressive film, and to ease Cowboys fans’ minds, I revisited Charlton’s tape from his senior season to digest what had me so excited to begin with in the spring.

LENGTH, LENGTH AND MORE LENGTH

Being long is one thing. Using length effectively is something entirely different. Charlton’s wins as a rusher frequently come via the latter. He’s able to stave off the first punch and win at first contact.

Charlton shows competency in his run fits to press and extend. I did get some feedback in response to this clip that Charlton misplayed his challenge on the ball carrier. But the responsibility is to contain first. Charlton squares in the tackle and does well to ensure the ball is cut back inside of his hip. How about the strength and ability to press and extend, finishing this fit with good extension to control the blocker?

Speaking of power in the hands, Charlton is apt and effective to press and extend through contact with power. Here, this arm extension is what allows him to convert initial leverage into a successful bull rush. This is an active application of length as a player, and it’s why teams so frequently care about length in defenders at the line of scrimmage.

What’s longer than two 34-inch arms? One 34-inch arm. Charlton’s ability to establish initial contact is what wins many of his pass rush reps. It’s also the reason why the Cowboys were quick to emphasize his length when talking about their decision to select him with 28th overall selection. Charlton here shows his length and the same hand power you saw in the additional clips above.

TILT AND LEAN ABILITY

It’s only fair to get the main event rush out of the way first. People talk about rushing off the edge, and this is what the vast majority will immediately picture. Folks associate edge rushing with winning with a burst at the line, dropping the inside shoulder and flattening.

Don’t believe me?

Head over to Twitter and look up Derek Barnett. Charlton’s flatten here is impressive. We saw in a clip against Penn State above that Charlton’s capable of dropping the pad level as a rusher. But just as impressive as that rep is here against Ohio State. He compliments the movement skills and cornering with a clean rip to ensure poor recovery chances from the tackle.

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