Cowboys' Jerry Jones savagely put Mazi Smith on notice after NFL Draft

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The Dallas Cowboys deserve credit for what they did in the 2024 NFL Draft. At first glance, the Cowboys may have selected four future starters with their first four picks. If those selections make an impact, Dallas will be primed to win another 12 games and qualify for the playoffs.

In a vacuum, the general feeling about the 2024 class is significantly more positive relative to last year's draft. As the first-round pick of that group, Mazi Smith has been the face of those critiques.

Smith played all 17 games in year one and finished with 13 tackles and one sack. His 34.9 run-defense grade was the worst on the team, per Pro Football Focus. While the odds were stacked against Smith as a rookie, it's an understatement to say he needs to show up big next season.

Smith is likely aware of the pressure he's under. If not, owner Jerry Jones made sure of it speaking to the Dallas media after the draft.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones put Mazi Smith on notice after NFL Draft

"Mazi's got to do a lot better than he did last year, and I think he certainly will," Jones said.

Leave it to Jones to put a young player on notice. In Jones' defense, though, he didn't say anything that was out of pocket. Smith needs to have a bigger impact and the Cowboys have long been believers in the year two jump from young players. It's why they're so committed to the draft-and-develop philosophy.

Luckily for Smith, the Cowboys haven't addressed the DT position this offseason the way fans had hoped. They used a seventh-round pick on Auburn run-stuffer Justin Rogers, but his primary concern will be making the 53-man roster more so than challening Smith for snaps.

In addition, Dallas let Johnathan Hankins leave in free agency. That leaves Smith (and Rogers) as the only true nose tackles on the roster. The Cowboys have been linked with veteran DL Calais Campbell following the draft and team reporters have pointed to defensive tackle as a position they'll look to upgrade.

As of this writing, Smith has no competition for the starting job. With Mike Zimmer arriving as defensive coordinator, Smith will get back to his Michigan playing weight and his familiar nose tackle position. At Michigan, Smith was one of the most disruptive one-tech tackles in the nation.

For all of those reasons, the arrow is certainly pointing up for Smith. Even though Smith knows he needs to be better, Jones' comment likely lit another fire under the young defender.

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