Cowboys fixing big Mazi Smith mistake from 2023 as Mike Zimmer arrives

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks
Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks / Tom Hauck/GettyImages

It'd be easier to stomach the Dallas Cowboys' inactive free agency if their 2023 draft class made a profound impact last season. By not spending, the Cowboys are placing more pressure not only on last year's first-round pick Mazi Smith, but also themselves to hit a home run in the 2024 draft.

The selection of Smith was met with mixed reviews, but it ended an interminable trend of Dallas not investing a high pick on a nose tackle. Say what you will about the value of taking a defensive tackle in round one, but the pick needed to happen given the Cowboys' personnel and struggles defending the run.

Fast forward to 2024 and Smith's rookie year could not have gone worse. Despite being healthy all season, Smith played just 28% of the snaps. He was noticeable lighter in terms of playing weight relative to his time at Michigan and it was learned he was asked to lose weight to convert to a three-tech tackle.

It was a boneheaded decision and Smith's development stalled as a result. Luckily, the Cowboys seemingly have learned from their mistake and we can't help but wonder how much influence Mike Zimmer had in the decision.

Cowboys fixing massive Mazi Smith mistake from 2023 as Mike Zimmer arrives

Bryan Broaddus of 105.3 The Fan noted on "The Draft Show" podcast that Dallas is having Smith put weight back on to convert back to a true nose tackle. That's the position Smith was drafted to play, which made the weight loss request downright impossible to comprehend.

That is music to Cowboys fans' ears. Zimmer's arrival seems to already be paying dividends for Smith's career. As an interior defensive lineman, the former Wolverine is a much better fit in Zimmer's scheme relative to Dan Quinn's.

Toward the end of the 2023 season, Smith looked smaller than most of Dallas' defensive linemen, including their edge rushers. It was shocking to the eye considering Smith was drafted at 327 pounds. He went from one of the strongest players in the draft to a player who routinely got pushed off the ball and couldn't handle double teams.

Smith putting weight back on obviously doesn't guarantee he'll be a stud in year two, but he wasn't expected to reach "stud" level this early into his career anyway. The bottom line is this is massive news for his development and drastically increases the odds of him being a consistent contributor on Sundays.

Given the state of Dallas' interior defensive line and how ineffective Smith was as a rookie, that alone is a huge moral victory for the Cowboys. It's easy to forget given that Smith's first year was essentially a waste, but he's not long removed from being one of the most disruptive forces in the country.

Thanks to Zimmer, we might see the real Mazi Smith in 2024.

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