Early look at the Cowboys training camp battles for 2023

Dallas Cowboys v Tennessee Titans
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3. Johnathan Hankins vs Mazi Smith for NT

Mazi Smith was a solid draft pick for Dallas. When they brought him in, it was clear they were ready to end their continual search for a run-stuffing nose tackle.

While at Michigan, that's exactly what Smith did. The 6-foot-3, 326-pounder didn't rack up the stats with 88 tackles and 0.5 sacks in three seasons but he was excellent at clogging the lanes as Damian Parson of The Draft Network says.

"Smith is a tremendous run-stuffer in the middle of Michigan’s defense. He plays with outstanding physical strength at the point of attack to disrupt blocking concepts. His strength and physicality is an asset and allows him to reset the line of scrimmage. Smith is a heavy-handed puncher who can generate substantial knock-back power in the run game."

Damian Parson, The Draft Network

As fate would have it, Smith arrives when Dallas finally has someone else capable of slowing down the run. Johnathan Hankins, who was added during the 2022 campaign has appeared in just five regular season games for the Cowboys but the 340-pounder made his presence known.

His ability to shut down the run will push Smith. Whichever player winds up starting, the Cowboys will have a formidable run-stopper. And Smith has a great veteran to learn from, meaning no one should be too upset if he can't unseat Hankins right out of the gate.