3 Cowboys who are breaking out of early-season slumps at the perfect time

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1. DT Mazi Smith

It's easy to look back at the 2023 NFL Draft and underline players the Cowboys should've taken over Mazi Smith with the No. 26 overall pick. It marked the first time Dallas invested a high-round pick on an interior defender since they took Trysten Hill in the second round in 2019 and Maliek Collins in the third round in 2016.

It was a necessary investment by the front office, even if Smith was expected to experience growing pains as he got acclimated to the NFL. Sure enough, Smith's impact was few and far between over the first two months of the season, but he's come on strong over the last two weeks.

In Week 10 against the Giants, Smith posted a 83.9 defensive grade (a career high) and 77.5 run-defense grade, per Pro Football Focus. He followed that with a 71.6 defensive grade and a career-high 87.7 pass-rush grade against the Panthers after he notched two pressures, one hurry and a QB hit on just eight pass rush snaps.

Whether it's absorbing double teams, beating one-on-ones or improving his get-off at the snap, which was poor to start the year, Smith is showing up more and more with each week. It's clear he's learning on the job and he'll only get beter with more playing time.

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