clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cowboys news: First-round pick Mazi Smith’s play in preseason has caused division in the fanbase

The Dallas Cowboys have just one more preseason game to decide the 53 players that will make the roster.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NFL: Preseason-Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Why Mazi Smith’s level of play should not be a concern for the Cowboys - Reid Hanson, The Cowboys Wire

There have been a lot of reactions to Mazi Smith’s debut as the team’s first-round pick this preseason.

Smith, a man who stands 6-foot-3, 337-pounds, is no exception to the rule. He’s not going to line up on the edge and burn around the corners for the highlight reels. He’s going to take on blocks and try to control his gaps.

As a 22-year-old, that’s no simple task, even for a man his size. It’s a grown man’s game inside and struggles aren’t just possible – they’re expected.

To state it simply, Smith hasn’t been great. He hasn’t been terrible either. Like a lot of rookies, he has some good plays and some bad plays. Consistency is a veteran’s skill and something that takes time to develop.

It’s unrealistic to expect a rookie DT, even a first rounder, to hit the ground running.

Defensive tackle takes time

As discussed early in the summer, expectations should be tempered for Smith in 2023. Interior defensive linemen notoriously take time to develop. Even first-round picks struggle to be impactful in Year 1.

The average number of defensive snaps from first-round rookie DTs in 2022 was just 225. That comes out to just roughly 13 snaps/game. Not one of them was able to reach 10 pressures on the season either. Again, these are first rounders being discussed.

2023 NFL Preseason Debrief, Week 2: Mazi Smith not expected to start? - Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com

Rosenthal offers up a 90-point round-up of the preseason Week 2 takeaways, three are about the Cowboys.

44) Training camp and the preseason are for players like second-year Cowboys wideout Jalen Tolbert. After a lost, disappointing rookie year, the 2022 third-round pick looked like a different player in Oxnard and has created separation consistently in the preseason. He led the Cowboys in receiving Saturday and has earned a role on the Week 1 offense.

45) Despite his first-round status, Mazi Smith is not expected to start to open the season, according to Jon Machota and Saad Yousuf of The Athletic. Veteran Johnathan Hankins remains ahead of Smith. The Cowboys drafted for need with Smith and second-round tight end Luke Schoonmaker and neither may have much of a role early.

46) Everyone’s favorite 5-foot-5 running back, Deuce Vaughn, has undoubtedly made the Dallas Cowboys with a strong camp and two dynamite preseason performances. He could earn meaningful snaps in the regular season behind Tony Pollard. Rico Dowdle appears next in line for snaps, but a veteran pickup could make sense here.

3 things we learned from the Cowboys’ preseason loss to the Seahawks: Mazi Smith’s struggles, Kelvin Joseph’s impressive performance and more - John Owning, Pro Football Focus

Josh Ball stepped up at the perfect time for the Cowboys against the Seahawks, showing he can be part of the solution for OL depth.

JOSH BALL‘S BEST PERFORMANCE

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Ball bounced back from his struggles last week in a big way, putting together arguably his best performance as a Cowboy, which culminated in his best single-game PFF grade (78.3) by more than 10 points.

Ball played this game like he was pissed off, as he was firing off the snap with bad intentions to often displace Seattle’s interior defenders. Ball was particularly adept on double-team and combination blocks, repeatedly bullying Seahawks defenders out of their assigned gaps Saturday night. Unfortunately, the rest of Dallas’ offensive side seemed to struggle, especially in the run-blocking realm, so it seldom paid off with explosive runs and notable gains.

Even more importantly, Ball appeared much more comfortable in pass protection. After allowing three pressures in addition to getting beat three other times that didn’t result in a pressure last week, he didn’t get beat a single time across 27 pass-blocking snaps Saturday night, per PFF’s review.

The Cowboys desperately need one of their reserve interior offensive linemen to step up and prove capable of contributing if forced to play in a game that truly matters. While this performance doesn’t prove that Ball is that guy, it certainly gives him a stronger case to be considered alongside Matt Farniok, Brock Hoffman and Asim Richards, who has been mostly playing at tackle during the preseason.

COWBOYS RUN OF HEALTH ENDS IN SEATTLE - Mario Herrera Jr., Inside The Star

This was a brutal way for rookie Demarvion Overshown’s season to end.

An MRI performed on his left knee early Sunday morning revealed our worst fears, a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament.

Overshown has immediately been ruled out for the season, and surgery has yet to be scheduled. This injury is a huge blow to a linebacker unit whose depth was already in question.

DeMarvion Overshown’s injury presents opportunities for other Cowboys LBs - Charean Williams, PFT

McCarthy provides a hint about how the depth chart at linebacker could play out.

“This is a great opportunity for Devin Harper and Jabril Cox and Tyrus Wheat,” McCarthy said. “This is how this league goes. You only have so many reps in a game and when someone does go down, it’s more opportunities for other players.”

The Cowboys have Damone Clark starting next to Leighton Vander Esch, and Harper, Cox and Wheat are competing for playing time behind them. The team will wait to see whether it might have to seek some veteran help.

NFL preseason Power Rankings 2023: How all 32 teams stack up - Staff, ESPN

In ESPN’s latest power rankings, Todd Archer writes that the pressure is increasing for McCarthy.

On the hot seat: Coach Mike McCarthy

This is nothing new, of course. McCarthy has not had much of a honeymoon, and even winning 24 games in the past two years has not earned him much grace. But now that he is taking over as the playcaller, he will be under even more scrutiny. If the numbers falter and the wins don’t continue, there will be heat on McCarthy even if the organization publicly backs him.

NFL stadium rankings: All 30 NFL venues from best to worst - Jon Machota, The Athletic

The NFL staff at The Athletic rate the 30 NFL stadiums, and AT&T Stadium ranks a solid fourth overall.

Falling one spot from our previous ranking, AT&T Stadium is clearly still one of the best venues in all of sports. The retractable roof isn’t open much but when the doors and roof are open for a Sunday night or Monday night game, it’s difficult to find a better place to watch a game. The big screen above the field continues to be one of a kind. While some appreciate it, others complain that it distracts from watching the actual game on the field. AT&T Stadium opened in 2009 but still compares well to all of the newer stadiums. It landed in the top five on 19 ballots.

“Jerry Jones created a palace with a football field at the center of it all,” NFL reporter Jeff Howe wrote. “It’s spacious, clean, has great sight lines and was clearly built to last a long time.”

Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster projection after second week of preseason - John Herndon, The Landry Hat

With Isiah Land doubling as a linebacker as well as pass rusher this preseason, his chances of making the roster improved after Saturday night.

Linebacker (5)

Leighton Vander Esch, Damone Clark, Jabril Cox, Devin Harper, Isiah land

With the news that DeMarvion Overshown will miss the entire season, Devin Harper will secure a roster spot. He’s played admirably during training camp and that’s translated into the preseason, to say nothing off his contributions on special teams.

I’m finding it challenging to leave undrafted free agent Isiah Land off the 53. In the wake of Overshown’s injury, Land makes the team.

Practice squad considerations: Devin Harper

7 NFL Rookies Earning Significant Playing Time in 2023 After Preseason Week 2 - Maurice Moton, Bleacher Report

Wherever the Cowboys formally have Deuce Vaughn on the depth chart with Rico Dowdle and Malik Davis, it’s clear the Kansas State rookie is ready to make big plays.

Deuce Vaughn, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys fans may not like the comparison to former Philadelphia Eagle Darren Sproles, but Deuce Vaughn has some similarities with his 5’6”, 176-pound stature and playmaking ability.

We’re going hear announcers say, “Deuce is on the loose” quite a bit in the upcoming campaign. He is an offensive spark plug who can evade defenders with his shifty footwork and break tackles to rack up yards after contact and yards after the catch.

In two preseason outings, the 21-year-old has showcased his electrifying skill set, recording 13 rush attempts for 64 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also been active in the passing game with four receptions.

ICYMI - The Bucs released kicker Rodrigo Blankenship in favor of another kicker. Our own Sean Martin had some thoughts on that.

With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers releasing Rodrigo Blankenship on Monday, another name for Dallas fans to keep an eye on has hit the market at the right time. Blankenship lost the training camp competition to Chase McLaughlin, who was signed by the Bucs first before Blankenship was brought in later.

Blankenship made a 35-yard field goal in each week of the preseason for the Bucs, but missed from 55 and 32 last week. With a career 83.9% field goal percentage, making 17 of 24 kicks from 40+ yards over three years with the Colts and Cardinals, Blankenship is more than qualified to at least come in and quickly compete with Brandon Aubrey.

The Cowboys have a lot of other tough roster decisions to make when constructing their depth charts at deep positions like cornerback and wide receiver, but rolling into the season with just Aubrey currently on the roster puts special teams in a rare spotlight for things to watch for in the preseason finale.

Blogging The Boys Podcast Network and YouTube Channel

We offer a different show every single day on the Blogging The Boys podcast network, and on weekdays we offer two different shows every single day.

  • Monday: 1st and 10 with Tony Catalina & Aidan Davis
  • Monday: Hidden Yardage with Mark Lane and Sean Martin
  • Tuesday: The Writer’s Block with Brandon Loree, David Howman, Brandon Clements and Chris Halling
  • Tuesday: BTB Roundtable with various BTB Staffers
  • Wednesday: NFC East Mixtape with RJ Ochoa and Brandon Lee Gowton
  • Wednesday: Talkin’ The Star with Connor Livesay and Joey Ickes
  • Thursday: The Ocho with RJ Ochoa
  • Thursday: Ryled Up with Roy White and Tom Ryle
  • Friday: Girls Talkin’ Boys with Kelsey Charles and Meg Murray
  • Friday: The Star Seminar with Danny Phantom and Rabblerousr
  • Saturday: The World’s Team with Meg Murray and Paul Stewart

We also offer live shows every weekday afternoon on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel.

The Blogging The Boys podcast network is available on all major podcast platforms.

Subscribe here on Apple devices.

Subscribe here if you are a Spotify user.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys