Ask Taco Charlton if he’d rather be a slug or a bullet — like his defensive coordinator Don Brown did — and you’ll get a laugh out of the senior defensive end.
Like most, Charlton would prefer to be the bullet, though his performance as the proverbial “slug” last season certainly wasn’t lacking.
Despite starting just three games, Charlton managed to tally 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as an end in former defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin’s 3-4 defense. The numbers with such limited snaps are even more impressive considering injuries along the defensive line forced Charlton to play as both a tackle and an end.
As a result, Charlton had to carry more weight to be better equipped to handle the opposition’s running game — hence Brown’s playful comparison.
But under his new defensive coordinator’s system, Charlton is back to being the bullet, having lost 13 pounds this offseason. Heading into fall camp, Charlton’s weight is listed on the roster at a still-formidable 272 pounds.
That weight on a hulking 6-foot-6 frame that has spent close to four years in a college weight room could be a nightmare for offensive lines this season — which is Charlton’s goal.
“Going to a 4-3 defense kinda suits my game a lot, because it puts me outside where I can use a lot of my speed,” Charlton said at Sunday’s team media day. “Going back to a 4-3 end, I believe my production is only going to skyrocket. It wasn’t necessarily bad weight that I had on last year, but it was baggage I didn’t need and (the weight loss) allowed me to be a lot faster off the edge and get the speed that I really wanted back.
“That speed coming off the edge is something that our team needs, and (Brown) wants me to be that pass rusher that we need. That’s what I’m going to be capable of bringing.”
Charlton has enjoyed learning under Brown — a coach with a penchant for bringing pressure with all kinds of blitzes.
That, Charlton explains, allows the defensive line to be free.
“One of the worst things is when you have to contain the whole time,” Charlton said. “You can’t really rush (the passer) because you’re so afraid of the quarterback getting out. But with coach Brown, he blitzes so much. As a rusher, when you hear that, you’re really able to pin your ears back and go get the quarterback.”
That’s not to say Charlton isn’t willing to flex back inside if asked. He’s adamant in saying that he’ll do anything to help his team win, and if that means having to flip back-and-forth between positions, so be it. He has played pretty much every position on the line in his career — strong side, weak side, rush end and tackle.
“So I’m really capable of going back and forth and playing wherever my team needs, and I’m able to do it and be productive at it,” Charlton said. “If a coach moves me inside, I can definitely rush (the passer). I’ve got the speed to do it, and I’m strong enough to do it.”