Stephen Jones throws Dan Quinn under the bus for crucial Mazi Smith mistake

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If there's one thing Dallas Cowboys fans are excited about from this offseason, it's probably the hire of Mike Zimmer as defensive coordinator. Zimmer replaces Dan Quinn, who left Dallas on poor terms after the Cowboys' defense fell apart down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs.

Though Quinn moved mountains over his three years as Cowboys DC, it became obvious that the defense had a ceiling under his watch. The unit would regularly underperform against elite offenses and they often struggled against physical teams that liked to run the football.

The struggles against the run are largely why Dallas selected Mazi Smith in the first round of last year's draft. Unfortunately, Smith made a minimal impact as a rookie. Over time, it was apparent that Smith wasn't a fit for what Quinn asks of his interior defensive linemen.

Appearing on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday, Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones all but blamed Quinn for Smith's lost rookie year.

Cowboys' Stephen Jones throws Dan Quinn under the bus for Mazi Smith mistake

"He (Smith) didn't play as much as we would have liked. I think it was a learning process with him, learning what Dan (Quinn) wanted out of the defensive linemen. We knew when we drafted him out of Michigan that he was asked to play the one-technique a little different than Dan likes to see it played. I think the way (Mike Zimmer) is going to ask these guys to play is probably a little more in line with what he did at Michigan. But we feel really good about Mazi."

It's certainly odd in retrospect that the Cowboys spent a first-round pick on Smith knowing what Quinn wants from defensive linemen. The fit was never going to work.

That became clear when the Michigan product noticeably lost weight in the middle of the season. Not only did Quinn ask Smith to covert to a three-technique tackle, but he wanted the rookie to play at a weight he's seemingly never played at. Smith certainly didn't perform up to expectations, but how much can we hold against him now that we know this information?

Luckily, Zimmer's scheme for interior linemen fits Smith's skillset as a one-technique tackle. In another sign of encouragement, the Cowboys are going to put weight back on Smith to make him a legit nose tackle again.

It's easy to knock the Smith pick given how little he produced as a rookie, but he's in much better hands under Zimmer. In terms of Cowboys who will benefit most from Zimmer's scheme, Smith is the first player that comes to mind.

It all starts with Smith recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and getting back to his Michigan playing weight. He might not have a transformative impact in year two, but all signs point to Smith making a much bigger impact as Jones alluded to.

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