NFL Football

Taco Charlton makes a good impression his second time around

LOS ANGELES — Taco Charlton has learned that being a first-round pick brings high expectations.

Even though he played in only two series in the Hall of Fame Game and did not make much impact, whispers were creeping in. They were a bit louder when he was held out of one practice last week with an unspecified injury while running sprints in the end zone and going through resistance training.

When T.J. Watt, whom the Dallas Cowboys passed on, picked up two sacks for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday, more eyebrows were raised toward Charlton, taken 28th overall.

In the first quarter of the Cowboys’ 13-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Charlton recorded a sack, had three tackles, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry.

That will get folks thinking good things.

QB depth chart:Kellen Moore started his second straight preseason game, but he was not as efficient as he was in the first, which is a little disconcerting because he had three-fifths of the starting line with La’el Collins, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick. He didn’t have Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Ezekiel Elliott or Cole Beasley, but he made plays against Arizona without those guys. He completed 8 of 17 passes for 69 yards in the first half before giving way to undrafted rookie Cooper Rush.

When it was starters vs. starters, the Cowboys looked …: Since the Cowboys played only 10 of their projected 22 opening-day starters, it’s hard to get a read on what they did. The defense forced a three-and-out on the first series but had to go back on the field when the opening punt was fumbled. They couldn’t get a quick-change stop after that despite Anthony Hitchens forcing a fumble at the goal line. The first-team offense, such as it was, did not get a first down until the second quarter.

One reason to be concerned: The Cowboys are about to start their fourth week of training camp and they don’t have an idea yet who will be their left guard. Neither Jonathan Cooper nor Byron Bell nor Chaz Green has been able to lay claim to the spot vacated by Ronald Leary. Bell had two holding penalties on the Cowboys’ first drive of the second quarter. Playing between All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith and All-Pro center Frederick will help whoever wins the gig, but the Cowboys need somebody to earn the job, not just be given the job

That guy might have to start: With Elliott looking at a six-game suspension, everybody wants to know who will emerge as the lead back if the penalty is upheld after the appeal. Darren McFadden was better than he was in the Hall of Fame Game (three carries, minus-6 yards) picking up 28 yards on six carries in the first half, but there were times he had more room to run. The Cowboys could go with a committee approach.

Rookie watch: Maybe it’s something about the Coliseum that Cowboys rookie quarterbacks seem to like. Dak Prescott completed 10 of 12 passes for 139 yards and two scores in his first preseason game with the Cowboys last summer. Rush on Saturday completed his first eight passes for 99 yards and threw a touchdown pass to Rico Gathers. Could he force the Cowboys to keep a third quarterback?

Until next time: Even though the Cowboys played in the Hall of Fame Game, they followed their normal preseason script of the past few years and rested the bulk of their starters, including Prescott, Elliott, Witten and Bryant. The Cowboys believe they will be able to get their regulars enough work in the next two preseason games, including the Aug. 19 home opener against the Indianapolis Colts. If form holds, the starters will not play in the final preseason game Aug. 31 against the Houston Texans. Look for linebacker Jaylon Smith to make his debut next week against the Colts, too.

What’s next?: The Cowboys will be off Sunday, the final break during their time in Oxnard, and will return to practice Monday. The Cowboys are scheduled to practice through Thursday and have a short walk-through Friday before returning to Dallas.

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