3 Dallas Cowboys entering a make-or-break year in 2024

The Cowboys will need these 3 players to rise to the occasion in 2024
Dallas Cowboys, Sam Williams
Dallas Cowboys, Sam Williams / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
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2. Mazi Smith, Defensive Tackle

Dan Quinn was a good defensive coordinator but made one of the more confusing moves in recent memory last year. Dallas had been criminally neglecting the defensive tackle position despite being bulldozed in the running game year after year. It seemed they made strides to address this in the 2023 NFL Draft when they took Michigan nose tackle Mazi Smith.

While nose tackles don't often go in Round 1, the Cowboys added a player who was more than just a space-eater. The 337-pounder could move as well, and while it still could have been called a reach in Round 1, Dallas was at least going to solve their 1-tech problem. Or so we thought.

Quinn decided to ask Smith to drop weight, and the rookie shed 30 pounds. He then moved to the 3-tech, which made no sense considering the Cowboys were already overcrowded with 3-techs that didn't generate much pressure.

In the end, this led to a wasted rookie campaign for Smith. Thankfully, he's moving back to his natural spot under Mike Zimmer but it won't be easy. The Cowboys have no other proven nose tackles, meaning Smith has to get it done — or they're going to be in trouble on defense.

That's why this is a make-or-break year for Smith, who could be replaced in 2025 if he can't handle the starting job. It's also just as critical for Dallas since they're putting all their eggs in the basket of a player who has to start from scratch in year two.