Mazi Smith Has Mounting Pressure Entering Year 2 With The Dallas Cowboys

The former Michigan football star has been labeled as a player with pressure entering his sophomore NFL season.
30. Philadelphia Eagles     DT Mazi Smith, Michigan

Syndication Detroit Free Press
30. Philadelphia Eagles DT Mazi Smith, Michigan Syndication Detroit Free Press / Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Dallas Cowboys chose two Michigan football players in the 2023 NFL Draft. Dallas opted to take the Wolverines' run stuffer, Mazi Smith, with the 26th pick in the first round before taking tight end Luke Schoonmaker in the second round.

Smith was one of the best run-stoppers in college football. In 2021, he had a PFF grade of 74.5 and then in 2022, it went up to 74.6. The Cowboys needed a big body to plug inside to stop those runs, but for whatever reason, Dallas asked Smith to drop a ton of weight. Smith came to Dallas around 334 pounds but when the season rolled around, Smith was down to 290 pounds -- not something that made too much sense.

With the dropped weight, Smith had a terrible rookie season for the Cowboys. He struggled to see reps as a first-round selection. According to PFF, Smith had a 47.2 total defensive grade and even worse a 31.8 run defense grade. He ended his rookie season with just nine tackles and one sack.

Mazi Smith
October 8, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Mazi Smith (58) after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has publically said Smith needs to improve in his second year with Dallas. The Cowboys retooled their defense by bringing in former Dallas coach and former Vikings' head coach Mike Zimmer to be the new defensive coordinator. Zimmer has said he's excited to work with Smith. According to the Dallas Cowboys' website, Smith is back up to 336 pounds which is great news for the Dallas defense.

With how Smith's rookie season went, Pro Football Focus placed him on the NFL Year 2 players with the most pressure list. If you're drafted to play for the Cowboys, two things are true, you will have plenty of eyes on you, but there is always going to be mounting pressure to perform.

The plans for Smith appear to be simple. Zimmer plans to start Smith at nose tackle in 2024 and with the added weight, the Cowboys need Smith to become that run-stuffer they had in mind when they took him in the first round.

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