337-Pounder Tabbed as Possible Cowboys ‘Breakout’ After 2023 Struggles


Getty Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Mazi Smith could be in line for an expanded role in his second season.

Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery to unlock a player’s potential, but in Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Mazi Smith‘s case, the 2023 first-round pick could see similar green chutes from the arrival of new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

Smith, 6-foot-3 and 337 pounds, produced only 13 total tackles, one sack, and three tackles for loss while making three starts in 17 appearances after being chosen by the Cowboys with the No. 26 overall pick.

But, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox put together a list of three potential breakout stars for the Cowboys this season, including Smith bouncing back from a disappointing rookie season.

“Putting Smith in a more natural role should increase his efficacy on the field,” Knox writes for Bleacher Report. “The second-year defender should also have more opportunities to get on the field. With Hankins and Neville Gallimore both gone, Smith has a chance to step into a starting role.

“Expect Smith to showcase that new role, and how he fits into Zimmer’s overall defensive game plan, in the coming months.”

One current NFL defensive coach is a bit skeptical, suggesting to Heavy that the Cowboys “overdrafted” Smith, but, suggests a new scheme may bring out the best in him as a player.

“Mike Zimmer’s new scheme will be better suited for him,” the coach told Heavy, on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about a player on another team. “Because he’s best at playing blocks, rather than just getting upfield in the type of scheme they ran last season.”

Zimmer’s arrival could usher in new ways to deploy Smith’s immense power and athleticism rarely found in a player his size.

Smith’s new defensive coordinator believes there is significantly more upside in the former Michigan standout than he showed last season.

Zimmer plans to tear down Smith and build him back up during the offseason program and training camp this summer, in hopes of turning him loose to wreak havoc in opposing backfields this fall.

“Obviously he was a high draft pick, and I heard that he kinda struggled a little bit last year,” Zimmer recently told reporters. “We’re gonna start with the basics, get him in a good stance, get him using his hands the right way, getting his footwork the right way, and then kinda go from there … We anticipate that he’s gonna be a good player like he was in college.”

Cowboys are Betting Big on Big Jumps From Wide Receivers

As CeeDee Lamb stays away from the Cowboys’ offseason program, some of Dallas’ younger wide receivers are getting valuable reps on the practice field with quarterback Dak Prescott during OTA practices.

After moving on from Michael Gallup, and waiting to select a wide receiver until taking Ryan Flournoy in the fourth round of April’s draft, the Cowboys are looking for someone to emerge as a reliable and consistent third option behind Lamb and Brandin Cooks.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of Lamb’s absence are Jalen Tolbert and Jalen Brooks who could make significant pushes to lock down the third-receiver role with a strong spring and summer.

“We expect all of those guys to make a jump,” wide receivers coach Robert Prince told reporters, via the team’s official website. “It starts with [Jalen Tolbert]. He made a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2, and we expect the same thing to happen for him going into Year 3. And Jalen Brooks, he works hard and he’s one of those guys that’s always studying, and he can play all of the [WR] positions — so we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do this year as well.”

Tolbert caught 22 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns last season, while Brooks added just six receptions for 64 yards.

It’s always possible the Cowboys bring in a veteran free agent, on an affordable team-friendly contract, but, it appears the young players will get the first chance to prove they’re capable of an expanded role.

Micah Parsons Plans Cowboys Return


Cowboys All-Pro edge rusher Micah Parsons has stayed away from the team’s voluntary offseason program, amid stalled negotiations on a possible long-term contract. However, that might be about to change.

“Just texted with Cowboys DE Micah Parsons. Parsons was not at OTA’s today in Frisco but tells me he will be back for in-house and national media responsibilities next week Tuesday, the 28th, and minicamp,” NFL Network reporter Jane Slater said via X.

Unlike the offseason program and OTAs, minicamp is mandatory, so that appears to be the first time the Cowboys will have Parsons on the practice field this spring.

Parsons’ immediate future and the state of his contract talks could hinge on the outcome of the Cowboys’ negotiations with Prescott. But, it sounds like Parsons plans to at least be around his teammates in the coming days and weeks.

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