So far in 2018, the Hot Boyz are living up to their name.
The name for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line coined by Taco Charlton has more than delivered in the first two games.
The Cowboys’ nine sacks are second only to the Chicago Bears’ 10 and are tied for the third-most sacks after the first two games by Dallas in team history (13 in 1994, 10 in 2011 and also nine in 2002).
Six of the sacks have come from the defensive line, or the Hot Boyz, if you will.
The fast start is just a glimpse of what’s to come, Charlton said.
“That’s the plan. We went back to work today with a hard practice like we didn’t do nothing,” he said. “Coach [Rod] Marinelli is pushing us again.”
For the second-year Charlton, double-digit sacks is the goal. He recorded his first last week against the Giants. He’s one of seven players with a sack. DeMarcus Lawrence has two. Lawrence likes to make sure his younger teammate knows it too. They like to playfully jaw with each other. If you didn’t know them, Charlton said, you might think they were enemies.
“We compete so much and the way we talk and if you don’t know us you might think we hate each other,” he said. “But really it’s just how we compete and bring the best out of each other. We talk a lot of trash but we have fun. We can go back and forth with each other for hours just talking trash but at the end of the day we want each other to succeed and we know how good we can be so that’s why we push each other so much.”
The origin of the Hot Boyz nickname owes something to the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom moniker. Cowboys defensive backs’ coach Kris Richard had a major hand in building that defense, which helped Seattle reach consecutive Super Bowls in 2013-14.
“They had the LOB and everybody knew what that was. We’re trying to get that identity. That defense led them to the Super Bowl so we’re trying to do the same thing,” he said. “To have an identity you have to win and you have to make a staple on games and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Charlton is trying to live up to his first-round draft selection after finishing with three sacks (and 15 tackles) in his rookie season a year ago. He has a mentor in Lawrence.
Tyrone Crawford said it takes some players a year before they adapt to the NFL. Charlton, he said, returned for his sophomore season a different player.
“He knew what he had to do. He listened to the naysayers and the people who were praising his work. He took it and turned it into energy and he’s doing his thing,” Crawford said. “There’s no step like going from the university to the NFL. You’re going from playing against a bunch of good guys to the best. You need to have a different mindset. It’s learned for most people. You have to learn to be more vicious than you’ve ever been. Your moves have to be violent, powerful. You have to want it more than you’ve ever wanted it. He came in and that grew in him and now he’s a dog. You can’t deny that.”
Crawford, in his sixth season, said the defense is having fun playing and the Hot Boyz nickname is a natural product of that fun. It seems inevitable that we’ll soon see Hot Boyz T-shirts and other swag in Cowboys’ gift shops.
“That thing has been rolling and it’s making it fun. I think that’s what you need to do on defense,” Crawford said. “I love this defense, I love this coaching staff, I love what we’re doing. It has been fun so far and it’s going to continue to stay fun.”
The fun, of course, will only continue as long as the Cowboys are winning, no matter how good the defense is. And to really be in the same conversation as the Legion of Boom, the Cowboys’ defense has a lot more work to do, Charlton said.
“You can have talent but if you don’t work it means nothing,” he said. “We want to be that defense but our work is cut out for us definitely.”