Cowboys RB coach Gary Brown breaks down the running backs in camp without Zeke Elliott
It goes without saying that defensive end Taco Charlton is on the roster bubble after two disappointing seasons since being picked in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, making this a crucial training camp in terms of his future with the Cowboys.
Scouting director Will McClay indicated as much in the offseason when he said Charlton must come to training camp and prove “he belongs on the roster” as the Cowboys weren’t going to “hold the train for him.”
And this was after Charlton had a “man talk” with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli over is play and attitude in 2018 when he missed five games, including three because of injury and two as a healthy scratch because of poor body language.
Charlton wouldn’t get into the conversation he had with Marinelli, saying only that they hashed out their differences.
The grisly defensive coordinator said it was largely a one-way conversation with Charlton being challenged to live up to the standards he has set for the defensive line.
“That is man talk,” Marinelli said. “You don’t got to beat around the bush. Here is what we got to do. Here is what you have to do to be the player you want to be and we want you to be. There was no doubt in anybody’s mind. In the whole meeting, everything we talk about it. We show grades. We show how certain guys are sprinting to the ball, some not. That’s the standard. They are not changing. That will never change. To be here, you have to rise to the challenge.”
So far so good for Charlton.
Marinelli said he has been very good through the first week in camp. He is playing hard. He is playing physical.
“I am impressed with him right now,” Marinelli said.
Charlton is taking advantage of the absences DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford, who are both nursing offseason surgeries. He is starting at left end and getting extra reps.
Charlton underwent offseason surgeries on his shoulder and ankle. He is healthy and feeling “the best I have in a while.”
He is not putting more pressure on himself.
“I want to be one of the best players,” Charlton said. “I train hard to be the best. I know my ability. I know what I can do. Time will tell. God got a time for everything.”
With just four sacks in two years, Charlton knows what is being said about him by Cowboys fans on social media who have already written him off as a first-round bust.
He simply blocks out the noise by putting his life in perspective and takes solace in the support of his teammates.
“It is what it is. I try to pay attention to that. It is going to come. It is going to come. I really can’t complain about my life. I live a good life. So I can’t be complaining. I work on my game, do what I need to do to improve and let everything else go from there.
“But when you are surrounded by teammates and know the real deal, as long as my teammates got me then the criticism from fans, all that don’t matter.”
Four other Cowboys veterans whose job is not promised
G Xavier Su’a-Filo
Su’a-Filo standing on the roster got a little stronger in recent days because right guard Zack Martin is dealing with back problems and third-round pick Connor McGovern remains sidelined with a peck injury. Su’a-Filo started eight games for the Cowboys last year and could be used as trade bait if he is not needed to provide experienced interior depth. McGovern’s status and development will play a key role in the decision.
DE Kerry Hyder
Hyder’s versatility is important as he can play end and tackle. But the depth on the defensive line is strong. The four-year veteran from Texas Tech’s status is tied to the development of rookie defensive ends Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks, as well as the promising improvement of Dorance Armstrong and whatever decision the team makes with Charlton.
S George Iloka
Iloka was signed as a free agent to compete with Jeff Heath for the starting spot at strong safety. Heath went unchallenged in OTAs and minicamp and seems firmly entrenched as the starter. Iloka is running with the third team. The Cowboys did not sign him to back up and play special teams, let alone run third string.
WR Tavon Austin
Austin is the team’s primary punt returner and has had a strong start to camp at receiver. His presence today is stronger than it was heading into camp. He must stay healthy. Injuries have been a big part of his story. He also must stave off speedy rookies Jon’vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton.