Pass Rush Needs In Mind, But 2016 Draft Pick Tapper Making Progress From Injury

INDIANAPOLIS – The defensive line prospects are scheduled to work out Saturday here at the NFL Scouting Combine, and pass rush is generally considered a top draft need for Dallas at this point in the offseason.

But it's worth noting that a 2016 Combine participant – Charles Tapper, one of the Cowboys' two fourth-round picks last year – is aiming for a healthy 2017 season after a back injury sidelined him for all 16 games and the playoffs.

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said Tapper has made "a lot of progress" in his recovery.

"We had some discussions toward the end of the year about what his availability might be," Garrett said. "We just decided he missed way too much football to get him back in there.

"But we are optimistic about him. Hopefully he will be ready to go at the start of the offseason program."

Tapper entered training camp in competition for a starting job after a productive college career at Oklahoma, but the injury popped up the week of the Cowboys' preseason opener. He landed on injured reserve early in the regular season and remained there his entire rookie year.

Tapper's return likely wouldn't impact the Cowboys' draft interest in a pass rushing prospect if they find value on draft weekend. But it does mean the redshirt rookie could provide depth in Rod Marinelli's rotation next season.

Garrett on Wednesday also addressed the health status of defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence (back), Tyrone Crawford (shoulder) and Cedric Thornton (shoulder) following offseason surgery.

"My understanding is all the surgeries went well," Garrett said. "The rehab is going well. We anticipate those guys being back. I don't know their specific timetables, but everything has been positive up to this point."

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