Star Evaluation: Pivotal Year For Taco Charlton

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With free agency looming in March, roster turnover isn't far away. However, the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.

Today, we continue the series with defensive end Taco Charlton.
* What's Been Good:* A first-round pick two years ago, Charlton has shown flashes as a down-to-down pass rusher, particularly in the first month of the 2018 season with a heavy snap count. He also made strides as run defender last season, tying for third on the team with four tackles for loss. "He, like a lot of players, is a work in progress. He's still a developmental player," head coach Jason Garrett said last week at the NFL Combine. "He's done some good things. But he has to continue to take the next step."
What's Been Bad: Charlton suffered a shoulder injury in Week 9 against Tennessee and missed five of the next six games. The injury set him back in the rotation down the stretch and he played limited snaps in the Cowboys' two playoff games. By the end of the season, Randy Gregory had stepped in as the primary rusher from the right side.

2018 Highlight: Charlton's most productive game was a critical one: Week 2 against the Giants with Dallas trying to avoid an 0-2 hole. He got his first and only sack of the season when he dropped quarterback Eli Manning for a 10-yard loss, forcing a punt. In the third quarter, he recovered a fumble that led to a Cowboys score in an eventual 20-13 victory at AT&T Stadium.

What's Next: At least for now, Gregory's indefinite NFL suspension is a blow to the defensive line's depth. (Gregory rotated with Charlton at right end last season and finished second on defense in sacks.) Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said last week it's "not impossible" to think Gregory could be reinstated by Week 1, but at the moment, Charlton is the team's most experienced full-time defensive end behind DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys need him to take a step forward in 2019.

With Randy Gregory suspended indefinitely by the NFL, the Cowboys will need Taco Charlton to take a step forward in his third season.

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William A. Boykins

Digital Media Producer / Webmaster

Bryan Broaddus' Bottom Line: What started off as such promise for both Taco Charlton and the front office ended up with more questions than answers. Charlton did what he had to do to get himself ready for the 2018 season. He added weight and strength which showed by the time we got to Oxnard for training camp. Charlton was able to take those physical improvements and carry those into the season where he was useful part of the rotation until a shoulder injury sideline him for five games. Charlton has since had the shoulder repaired and appears to be ready to put it behind him and prepare for the upcoming season. For Charlton, the 2019 season could go a couple of different ways for him. Depending what happens with Lawrence, who was franchised Monday, Charlton could be the starter at left defensive end or he could figure into the rotation with Tyrone Crawford on the right side until the situation with Gregory becomes resolved. Regardless, Charlton is expected to carry a big load wherever he is asked to play. In my opinion this is a make-or-break season, and how he responds with tell a great deal about his future.

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