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Cowboys news: Mazi Smith feels ready for the season

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Syndication: Austin American-Statesman Kirthmon F. Dozier/USA Today / USA TODAY NETWORK

Mazi Smith Is Ready, ‘Off to a Good Start’ - Patrik Walker,

There’s nothing better than the eagerness of a first-round draft pick.

“Let’s get to work, please,” he said while walking through The Star in Frisco for the first time this past April. “I’m ready to hit somebody in their face. I’m not playing.”

He was smiling but, as he noted, he was not kidding around.

But while he won’t get his wish in OTAs and minicamp, he already has the coaching staff buzzing about his hunger to get going … and his potential to do multiple things.

“For a guy like Mazi, you can’t wait to see him in pads,” said head coach Mike McCarthy as OTAs concluded. “He’s ready to show everybody what he can do in pads.”

McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are just as excited to explore his potential versatility across the defensive line — the definitive run-stopper who they feel has untapped abilities in the pass rush as well.

“We said this during the evaluation process: we feel there’s a lot more pass rush potential in his body than based on the opportunities he has shown in his college career,” McCarthy added. “So, I love the program he came from and the way he’s wired and physically, but his emotional connection and so forth. He’s off to a good start.”

Cowboys OTA observations: Tony Pollard feels ‘faster,’ DeAndre Hopkins interest - Jon Machota, The Athletic

Jon Machota gives his take on how the Cowboys have looked so far.

Practicing inside again

Same as last week, the Cowboys worked inside the Ford Center on Thursday. Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy would prefer to have the team on the grass, but they have run into issues. There is a grass field and a turf field outside at The Star, but the grass field has suffered damage in the middle. It is scheduled to be replaced next month. Part of the issue is the glass on the 16-story Keurig Dr Pepper building alongside the grass field. The building was finished in February 2021. Apparently, the combination of windows and the sun has had a negative impact on the growth of the grass.

Who was absent?

Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence and Terence Steele were in the building but did not participate. Starting cornerbacks Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore were not in attendance. Diggs was also not at the May 25 practice that was open to reporters, but McCarthy said Diggs has been “in and out” throughout OTAs. Nahshon Wright was in attendance but not practicing. DaRon Bland and Eric Scott were the first-team cornerbacks. Scott intercepted a Dak Prescott pass that bounced off the hands of tight end Peyton Hendershot in red zone work.

Offensive line

With Martin and Steele not practicing, the first-team offensive line was again Tyler Smith at left tackle, Matt Farniok at left guard, Tyler Biadasz at center, Josh Ball at right guard and Tyron Smith at right tackle. The second team saw Matt Waletzko at right tackle, Brock Hoffman at right guard, Alec Lindstrom at center, Chuma Edoga at left guard and Alex Taylor at left tackle. Earl Bostick also got some work at left tackle while Asim Richards lined up at left guard, Hoffman at center, T.J. Bass at right guard and Waletzko at right tackle.

State of the 2023 Dallas Cowboys: Heat is on Mike McCarthy, Dak Prescott to lead deep playoff run - Adam Rank,

As the popular Queen song goes, the Cowboys are “under pressure” for 2023.

2023 VIPs

Quarterback: Dak Prescott. I love Dak. I do. But he can be frustrating at times. He was absolutely brilliant against the Buccaneers in the playoffs, racking up five total touchdowns and 305 yards passing. The following week, Dak threw for just over 200 yards with one TD and two interceptions in the loss to the 49ers. Not that one should be expected to light up a defense like San Francisco’s unit, but Dak needs to avoid mistakes like the picks, especially the one in the red zone to Fred Warner. That was exceptionally exasperating. Maybe the switch to Mike McCarthy as play-caller will give us a more consistently great Dak. We’re about to find out.

Projected 2023 MVP: Micah Parsons, linebacker. Parsons has 26.5 sacks in his first two seasons. He’s the third player to post 12-plus sacks in each of his first two NFL campaigns since individual sacks were first recorded in 1982, joining Aldon Smith and Reggie White. Quinn changed how the ‘Boys deployed Parsons in his second year. He played 82.6 percent of the snaps on the line of scrimmage in 2022, per Next Gen Stats (49.7% in 2021). He’s one of just three players with 25-plus sacks and 30-plus tackles for loss since 2021.

New face to know: Stephon Gilmore, cornerback. The Cowboys traded for the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year this offseason. Is this like adding Deion Sanders to the squad in 1995? It’s not. But Gilmore ranked sixth among cornerbacks with a coverage grade of 81.1 last season, according to Pro Football Focus. And really, he’s just here to work along with Trevon Diggs, who leads the NFL with 14 interceptions and 35 passes defensed since 2021. Now, Diggs has gone 10 straight games without a pick, but he’s probably going to see more opportunities with Gilmore on the other side. And don’t forget that DaRon Bland was quite a pleasant surprise for the Cowboys last year, too. Dallas might have one of the best secondaries in the league.

Cowboys New Cap Room: Lamb, Diggs & How Will Dallas Spend $20 Million? - Mike Fisher, Cowboys Country

The front office will have some more money to play with, but how will they use it?

The Cowboys’ even-better news: Though it meant a painful goodbye to foundational standout Ezekiel Elliott, having designated him as a June 1 cut means that on Friday, that rebate comes back to the Dallas cap as well, to the tune of $10.9 million more.

Therefore, Cowboys bosses Jerry and Stephen Jones will wake up on Friday morning with a fresh total of more than $20 million in cap space. ... and arguably, some compelling ideas about what to do with that money.

So .. will they spend it? How? Where?

Oftentimes when we talk about offseason cap room, the money earmarked to pay the rookie NFL Draft class is forgotten. In this case on the Cowboys clock, more good news, as that’s already been handled.

There is, however, still a need for what some teams call a “slush fund’’ - that is, money for “small expenses’’ like paying for practice-squad call-ups and injury settlements.

And then there is the “not-small expenses’’ list. Assuming the Cowboys execute a Dak Prescott extension some time soon, Dallas could gain about $20 million more in cap room. That can help finance contract extensions for the likes of CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs (and we would argue, for Terence Steele as well).

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