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3 ways first-round pick DT Mazi Smith will help improve the Cowboys defense

Mazi Smith’s addition could have a positive ripple effect throughout the Cowboys defense. It may add something the team hasn’t had in a while.

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to positions the Dallas Cowboys have chosen not to invest a lot of equity in over the last decade, defensive tackle is certainly near the top of the list. That mindset seems to have shifted though since the arrival of Dan Quinn.

Just last season the Dallas Cowboys traded for Jonathan Hankins to add some much-needed size and run-stuffing ability to the defensive line. Dallas’ run defense was almost immediately upgraded with that addition, which is why they more than likely chose re-sign him this offseason.

Continuing to improve their defensive front, they did something they haven’t done since 1991. They chose to use their first-round pick on the former Michigan Wolverine defensive tackle, Mazi Smith. Like Hankins, he is expected to make an immediate impact, but how and where still remains to be seen.

Today, we’re going to take a look at three ways Mazi Smith should help improve the Dallas Cowboys defense early on as a rookie in 2023.

Where’s the beef?

“Where’s the beef?”, a catchphrase/slogan by Wendy’s in 1984, appropriately describes the Dallas Cowboys mindset regarding the defensive tackle position for probably at least the last decade. They’ve chosen to go with smaller, more athletic players over the big-bodied, space-eating type, but that way of thinking seems to have changed here recently.

After trading for Jonathan Hankins last season and re-signing him this offseason, plus drafting Mazi Smith in the first-round, we no longer have to ask the question “Where’s the beef?” any longer. Dallas now has two big men to deploy in the middle of their defensive line who should help upgrade what has been their biggest weakness, the run defense.

With two 320-pound plus DTs to hold up at the point of attack and control the line of scrimmage, opposing teams can no longer control the clock and the game by running the ball pretty much at will like they’ve done the past several years. Smith’s strength and athleticism for someone his size could be the ingredient Dallas’ defense has been missing.

Dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge

Like in the movie Dodgeball, starring Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, the Dallas Cowboys linebackers have been going by the five D’s of the sport, “Dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge”. Playing behind the smaller, more athletic defensive tackles Dallas has deployed over the years in the trenches, the Cowboys LB corps has had to fight through a lot of trash.

Now with the addition of Mazi Smith, along with Jonathan Hankins, Leighton Vander Esch and Company will now be playing behind the protective wall of sorts. No longer will they have to worry about stacking and shedding blockers or fighting through trash on every play. They can just read and react, using their athleticism and speed while playing to sideline to sideline.

With the big man anchoring the middle the defensive line, the Cowboys linebackers should have a much easier time making plays in both the running and passing game. considering the youth and inexperience at the position right now, that’s good news. Mazi Smith’s addition could actually prove most beneficial to Dallas’ LB position over any other.

Attention, attention please!

Mazi Smith’s sheer size alone naturally draws all eyes in his direction, but what he brings to the table the football field has the potential to be something opposing defensive coordinators have to game plan around. Early on his impact will be immediately made in the run game, however, his upside as a pass rusher is something the Cowboys are excited about as well.

If things play out as expected, there’s no reason to believe he won’t draw extra attention on any given play, so much so, double teams can be a regular thing for him. That extra attention should benefit everyone around him, especially the Dallas Cowboys impressive stable of pass rushers, highlighted by the potential Defensive MVP in 2023, Micah Parsons.

Mazi Smith’s addition to the Cowboys defensive line has the potential to make their pass rush even more lethal than it was a season ago. If more attention is shifted his way it should free up Micah Parsons and others to make plays, and vice versa. With him in the mix now, the possibilities are endless as to how Dan Quinn chooses to rush the passer this season.

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