Taco Charlton could finally make his teammates tacos on Sunday.
That’s how Charlton celebrates a sack and he hadn’t done it in the Dallas Cowboys’ first seven games. The first-round pick out of Michigan got off to the slowest start of any rookie pass rusher, but finally notched his first sack with 5:56 left in the Cowboys’ 28-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Charlton brought down Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith for a 3-yard loss. Smith was intercepted for the first time this season on the ensuing play.
“I’ve gotten close the last couple of weeks and this last week I was able to get there,” said Charlton, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Tuesday.
“Then we watched film and I was close to getting two more of them. So it’s getting there. Just keep improving and get more.”
Charlton hopes that sacks start to come in bunches for him. He’s heard plenty of criticism about his slow start as he was the last first-round pass rusher to register a sack this season.
The Cowboys continue to work with Charlton on refining his technique and fundamentals. Last month, he got personal tutelage from Hall of Famer Charles Haley about footwork and hand placement in rushing the quarterback.
Charlton has shown a tendency to try and use his speed to get around the edge early on in his career. That mindset might have worked in college, but it’s more difficult to do so in the pros where quarterbacks have a better understanding of when to step up in the pocket.
Charlton is learning to use his length to his advantage inside and not solely rely on his speed.
“Just learning the level of the quarterback and learning to come back and get there instead of a speed rush,” Charlton said. “The NFL has a lot of smart guys. If they see you, they step right up and kind of cancel out your rush. So just learning the level of the quarterback definitely helps.”
For the season, Charlton has been credited with one sack, three quarterback pressures, one pass defensed and five tackles.
Charlton is feeling good about the progress he’s made to this point and the sack should only boost those vibes. His teammates were certainly happy to see him get his first career sack.
“Oh man, it’s amazing,” said DeMarcus Lawrence, who leads the team with 10.5 sacks. “He just overcame all the bad talk and he stepped up to the plate. I’m proud of him.”
The Cowboys have combined for 27 sacks on the season, third-most in the NFL. They’re on pace for 54, which would be their most since having 59 in 2008.
“I think we’re starting to get close to the type of defense we want to be,” linebacker Sean Lee said after the game.
Added quarterback Dak Prescott, “When the defense is out there making plays and making stops they did against a powerful offense like that, we know how important it is for us to go out there and basically reward our defense by getting points.”
Kavon Frazier is making his presence felt on special teams for the Cowboys.
The second-year player out of Central Michigan is leading the team with 10 tackles on special teams, and has made significant plays in each game of this three-game winning streak.
At San Francisco in Week 7, Frazier forced a fumble on a punt return on the opening drive that set up an easy Cowboys touchdown. Against the Washington Redskins in Week 8, Frazier tackled Jamison Crowder for a 1-yard loss late in the fourth quarter when the game was still within one score.
And, last week against Kansas City, Frazier made a special teams tackle on Chiefs returner De’Anthony Thomas in the first quarter that pinned them on their own 13 and led to a three-and-out series.
“We take a lot of pride in our teams’ units,” said Frazier, who has been active for seven of the eight games (was inactive vs. Green Bay).
“We really believe that it can change games and honestly it has in the past three games. Our teams’ have played good and we’ve won all three. We take a lot of pride in that.”
The Cowboys saw the adverse effect a poor special teams play can have on an opposing team. The Chiefs could have pinned the Cowboys at their own 1-yard line early in the second quarter, but a miscomunication knocked the ball in the end zone and allowed the Cowboys to start from their own 20.
“Those are really big plays,” Frazier said. “I just give the credit to [punter Chris Jones] for putting the ball where it needs to be and giving me enough time to get down there and make a play.”