Week 13 snaps hint Cowboys benched 2023 first-round pick Mazi Smith

Las Vegas Raiders v Dallas Cowboys
Las Vegas Raiders v Dallas Cowboys / Ron Jenkins/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys 2022 draft class is one of their best in recent memory, which says a lot considering they netted CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs in the 2020 draft, and Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa a year later.

The jury is still out on Dallas' 2023 class, but the early returns aren't promising.

Second-round pick Luke Schoonmaker has received the most playing time, but that's not saying much. He's seen more action on special teams and has just seven catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns on offense. Do yourselves a favor and don't compare Schoonmaker's stats with other rookie tight ends.

While Schoonmaker has disappointed, first-round pick Mazi Smith has arguably been a bigger letdown. Granted, growing pains are expected for a rookie interior defender, but this is about the point in the calendar when Smith was expected to turn a corner and he hasn't.

In fact, Smith played just 11 snaps in Week 13 against the Seahawks.

Have the Cowboys quietly benched 2023 first-round pick Mazi Smith?

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Smith's 11 snaps tied Chauncey Golston and Neville Gallimore for the third-fewest on the defense. Johnathan Hankins (27), Sam Williams (19) and Dante Fowler (15), who committed two offsides penalties in the game, all logged more snaps than Smith.

It's an unfortunate development, as Smith looked to be turning a corner following his breakout game against the Giants in Week 10.

The nature of the blowout win likely afforded Smith more playing time -- his 25 snaps are a season-high -- but the No. 26 overall pick was relentlessly disruptive in the game, even if his stat line wasn't eye-popping. In fact, Smith was PFF's highest-graded rookie defensive tackle in the entire NFL that week and his 83.9 grade finished 10th among interior defensive linemen.

Then again, the fact Smith's "breakout game" came against the lowly Giants says a lot about where he's at in his development. Cowboys fans hoped that performance would springboard a strong close to the season from Smith, but he's managed a 25.6% and 15.9% snap share in the last two games, respectively.

Not every rookie and young player experiences linear progression. That is almost always true with interior defensive linemen, but you would have hoped Smith's playing time would be improving now that we've hit the home stretch of the regular season. Instead, it's going backwards.

It's unclear if the Cowboys have outright benched Smith or if he's in Dan Quinn's doghouse, but the fact his recent snap totals are aligned with the Neville Gallimore's and Chauncey Golston's of the world indicate he's as low as can be on the totem pole.

That's a big deal, even for a development pick.

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