The Dallas Cowboys are 5-3 at the midpoint the season. Despite a tough loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the team still has a slight chance to win the NFC East and make it to the postseason. It has been a season where the team has faced some ups and downs. The biggest disappointment has been the team's ability to play well against inferior teams while losing to contending ones.
Some players have also not fulfilled expectations. With the offseason moves made in trades and the draft, most looked at the Cowboys as much improved for 2023. However, some of these new arrivals have failed so far to catch on and a few rookies are struggling.
The Cowboys have a relatively easy stretch until they see the Eagles again in Week 14. They face the 2-7 Giants, 1-7 Panthers, Commanders and Seahawks. The Eagles have a tougher schedule with the Chiefs, Bills and 49ers on deck.
If Dallas wants to still be in contention for the division, they will likely need to win all of their games during this stretch and hope Philadelphia loses one or two of theirs. That might not happen with the way certain players have been performing so far.
3. Mazi Smith
Sometimes it takes a while for rookies to get used to the NFL. In the case with Mazi Smith Dallas was hoping for a guy who could help plug the middle of the defensive line right away. Even with retaining Johnathan Hankins, the Cowboys still opted to take the defensive tackle from Michigan with their first round pick.
The Cowboys' defense has still managed to be one of the best in the league thanks to the domination of Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence on the line. The unit has held more than half of their opponents to under 100 yards rushing so far, but due to getting out to large leads, the teams often do not run after the first half.
Hankins has been solid in his second season in Dallas. He has started all eight games and has 15 tackles with two pass deflections. Smith has seen the field in all eight games but has rarely been mentioned. He only has five tackles, one for a loss so far. That is not the kind of production Dallas was looking for from a first round pick.
Fortunately Hankins has been injury free and looks like he did a few years back with the Giants, but Smith is supposed to be the future. For a player who generated a lot of buzz during camp with his famous "I don't like football, I like to hit people" statement, Smith has not lived up to the standard that comes with being a first round pick.