Taco Charlton didn’t make an immediate impact like most expected with the Dallas Cowboys.
He didn’t get his first sack until Week 9 and has just three through 15 games. But Charlton has made strides every week and he’s not discouraged from what some may view has a subpar rookie season.
Instead, Charlton sees himself growing into an elite rusher at this level.
“I’ve grown a lot. If you watch film, you kind of see that,” Charlton said. “If you watched me in college, I improved every game. I improved every year. That’s how it is in the league. Every game I improved, every year I’ll improve.
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“In college, I was one of the best edge rushers. In the league, I’m going to get there too. It’s going to come in time. I just have to show up every day and work every day.”
Charlton is coming off arguably his best game last Sunday vs. the Seattle Seahawks. He had a sack, two quarterback pressures and a tackle in 22 snaps.
For the season, Charlton has played 36.9 percent of the defensive snaps (about 24 snaps a game). His three sacks are third-most on the team, and he’s also been credited with 16 tackles and 10 QB pressures.
“He’s getting better,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “It starts first in practice. I think that’s gotten a little bit better for him and locking in on a long year. That was probably his best overall game [vs. Seattle]. The rush was good because he controlled it, but made some real good lateral plays, tackling, some of those things. You can see what he can do. Now he’s just got to be consistent.”
Charlton, 23, believes the consistency will come with time. He developed into an elite rusher over time at Michigan.
Charlton had no sacks his freshman season; 3.5 sacks his sophomore season; 5.5 his junior season; and then had 10 sacks as a senior to close out his college career.
Charlton expects to make similar strides in the NFL. He couldn’t ask to be in a better situation, working with former players such as Hall of Famer Charles Haley and current players like DeMarcus Lawrence.
“When I’m out there, I can just learn the game,” Charlton said. “I can pick up on the game. I can get a feel for everything and how everything goes. I watch film, I watch a lot of other guys.
“The good thing is we have one of the best pass rushers in the league in D-Law, so I’m not only able to watch him, but also to work with him. Just working with him on different stuff like that, it’s able to translate to my game and help me improve also.”
Charlton is learning the different details and nuances that it takes to be successful in this league. He also knows that it usually takes time for defensive linemen to develop. The Cowboys close the season Sunday at Philadelphia.
Not every pass rusher in the league has immediate success such as the Los Angeles Chargers’ Joey Bosa. Most need a couple seasons before making a significant impact.
Charlton feels he’ll take his game to a different level next year, although he wasn’t going to put a number on what he’d like to accomplish.
“Every year I’ve always gotten better and always progressed and that’s something I’ve been able to continue to do in the pro game as you’ve seen as the year’s gone on,” Charlton said. “I could see next year just going to a different level. I won’t have to really adjust ‘cause I’ve already adjusted, so now it’s a matter of just getting better.
“A lot of guys who are successful now maybe their rookie years weren’t as great and they still turned out to be great players.”
Charlton understands that some might be quick to judge him because he was drafted in the first round. After all, expectations are higher for first-round picks, even though he was a later pick at No. 28.
“People were unhappy from the very beginning when they picked me, so people are going to say whatever they’re going to say,” Charlton said. “At the end of the day, I’m still here. My job is still to help this team win games and that’s what I’ve shown up to do.”