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How The Addition Of Taco Charlton Affects The Cowboys' DL Depth Chart

FRISCO, Texas – Just like that, the Cowboys have a wealth of options for how to deploy their pass rush in 2017.

This team's pass rush has been its most criticized unit for much of the past five years, but it'd be unfair to call it depleted. The decision to draft Taco Charlton 28th overall on Thursday night marked the fourth-straight year the Cowboys have drafted an edge rusher.

As it stands right now, there are six defensive ends on the roster ready to compete for playing time – four draft picks and two free agents.

Now, it's just a matter of figuring out what to do with them.

"Obviously, the right end position is a key spot," said Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones. "We were just talking about that – that's where Taco starts, at that right side."

That's an interesting piece of the puzzle. The Cowboys covet right-side pass rushers, so it's important to note that they plan to start Charlton off in that spot. But they also employ a pair of experienced right-side rushers in DeMarcus Lawrence and Benson Mayowa.

There's also Charles Tapper, who is fit for duty after missing his rookie season with a back injury. When the Cowboys drafted Tapper one year ago, they raved about his speed being an asset on the right side.

Obviously, this creates a bit of a logjam – which is a problem the Cowboys are thrilled to have.

"We've got three or four other guys that would like to play that right side too," Jones said. "Whoever comes out, we'll start to move them to the left and move the under-tackles out to the left that don't fit just right there."

Take your pick of how it plays out. Perhaps Charlton seized the big job alongside Lawrence, moving Mayowa to the left side. Perhaps the veterans hold off the rookie, sending him to the other side. Or maybe Lawrence once again moves to the left side, where he thrived in 2015 with eight sacks on the year.

Regardless of how it plays out, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is encouraged about what it'll mean for Charlton – and for his defense.

"He's a flexible, versatile guy, and we want to give him every chance to be a right end for us – we feel like he has the traits to do that," Garrett said. "But we believe strongly in competition. We have some guys on our roster right now who are going to fight for that spot. That's a good thing for our team."

This thought process prompts some other questions, as well. Injuries, combined with strong play by Maliek Collins, prompted the Cowboys to move Tyrone Crawford to defensive end last fall. Crawford was serviceable on the left side of the line, but it's long been suspected he might fare better at his old position of under-tackle.

With an extra edge rusher in the rotation, do the Cowboys plan to move Crawford back inside?
"Not necessarily. We'll work it all the way through," Garrett said. "We still have a couple more days to draft. We'll put our team together, and then we'll start figuring out the spots for everybody."

How that pecking order plays out will be the product of what's looking like a fierce competition.

"Competition will happen on Day 1," Garrett said. "Guys will fight for these spots, and that'll help our team."


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