On Monday, the Dallas Cowboys held a press conference for the retirement of DeMarcus Ware. Five days later they welcomed a new pass-rushing threat to the team when Taco Charlton held a press conference of his own.
Obviously, the offensive tackles of the NFC East will have their eye on how to stop Charlton from getting to their quarterbacks, just like they attempted to do with Ware. But the man who might have the most experience going up against Ware is the same tackle who Charlton will have to deal with every single practice. That man is Tyron Smith.
As the Cowboys' first round draft pick back in 2011, Smith's entry to the NFL consisted of daily matchups with one of the most unstoppable pass rushers in the history of the NFL. Early on, those matchups went about as expected. Ware was too fast, too strong, and too savvy to be contained by a rookie. But Smith kept getting better and better. Now, he's a perennial Pro Bowler, which means Charlton is in store for a similar learning process.
"The left tackle on our team right now is Tyron Smith, so if he lines up at right defensive end, he is going to go up against arguably the best left tackle in football," head coach Jason Garrett said. "That's a good environment for a young player to grow."
It would be hard to blame Charlton if he found the prospect of having to face Smith before he's completely adjusted to being in the NFL a bit intimidating, but in his introductory press conference he said that he's been in a similar situation before when he had to face a future first-round draft pick as an 18 year old.
"Coming in as a freshman in college, I was going against Taylor Lewan," Charlton said, "so I got baptized early."
Lewan, a 6'8, 315-pound offensive tackle, would go on to be selected by the Tennessee Titans in the 2014 NFL Draft, but Charlton said he embraced the test.
"I'm a guy that loves to compete so I never back down from any challenge."
The willingness to take on that challenge is something that Garrett and the coaching staff will have a close eye on. No one will reasonably expect Charlton to be able to win battles with Smith so early in his career, but how he responds to losing those battles is something the Cowboys take stock in.
"One of the things you're always trying to find out about guys is when it gets tough, when you go out to practice and you go into an individual drill with Rod Marinelli and then you compete against really good players, what happens to you?" Garrett said. "Do you compete and fight and battle? Do you scratch and claw and try to get better each and every day? Talking to people at Michigan, everybody felt really good about those qualities [in Charlton]."
Baptism by fire is a learning process. Smith had to go through it. This season, he'll be putting Charlton through it. The Cowboys' rookie doesn't exactly sound scared.
"Going against Tyron Smith will definitely make me a better player, which I want to be, so I can't wait to get to practice and go against him and improve my game. Because if I'm able to beat him in practice, I'll be able to beat anybody in the league."