OXNARD, Calif. – Taco Charlton's returning home this week for his NFL debut.
Charlton might have starred at the University of Michigan, but the Cowboys' first-round draft pick grew up across state lines in Pickerington, Ohio, about two hours from Canton – the site of Thursday's Hall of Fame Game against the Arizona Cardinals.
"It'll probably be a lot (of family and friends) there to support, and if not, then a lot will be back home supporting and definitely calling right after," he said.
Charlton actually played the state championship game in Canton as a high school junior. His team lost. Thursday, he's looking to build on the things he's improved since arriving in training camp 10 days ago.
Specifically, the 22-year-old defensive end has had trouble at times keeping his balance and leverage when rushing the quarterback. Mostly, it's just a matter of staying patient with his move set.
"I was too ready to hit something that I wasn't keeping my feet under me," he said. "After the days went on I got better, pass rushing improved, moves improved and I started winning more."
With David Irving (ankle) and Tyrone Crawford (rest) sitting out practice, Charlton got first-team reps at left defensive end. He's also taken his turns against left tackle Tyron Smith in drills, and there's no better game prep than facing an All-Pro in practice.
"That's what you want, playing against the best in the NFL," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "It's a higher standard. Competition's good, and you just go out and work."