Why Mazi Smith’s weight is so important for the Cowboys success

Mazi Smith had a season to forget in 2023. With only 304 defensive snaps on the year, the Cowboys first round pick struggled to get on the field, let alone crack a rotation. If it wasn’t for injuries and chronic underachievement at defensive tackle, Smith might have never gotten snaps.

Part of Smith’s struggles were understandable while another part was unexplainable. As a raw prospect coming from a read-and-react system at Michigan, it was understandable he struggled with his timing and technique. As a physical marvel and a certified “freak” with a size/strength/athleticism combo that can’t be taught, it was unexplainable why he lost upwards of 30 pounds, rendering his natural talent almost useless.

Rumors ran relentlessly that the weight loss was a request from the Cowboys coaching staff. But all indications are that’s nothing more than rumor and the decision was more Smith’s doing than a calculated request of the coaching staff. Regardless of the cause, the result was a wasted season in which Smith struggled to maintain his gaps, frequently lost ground to single blocks, and was essentially ineffective in areas once deemed his strengths.

Getting Smith back to his pre-draft weight seemed like a priority for the offseason. Johnathan Hankins departed in free agency, creating a massive void in the middle for the Cowboys defense. Girth is important at the 1-tech DT spot because it often faces double teams (center and guard) and it’s often responsible for clogging two gaps.

A slender player, however strong, will struggle to maintain the assignments frequently bestowed upon a 1-tech. That goes for Dan Quinn’s system as well as Mike Zimmer’s.

It’s what Smith could do with all that weight that made him special as a prospect. Without the lead in his shorts, he was no longer effective inside. It’s why his weight this summer is a such an important item to monitor.

At a time of the year when most people are trying to get into swimsuit shape, Smith is hopefully focused on getting up to 1-tech shape. For anyone wondering, that shape is mostly round.

Early reports seem to indicate Smith is back in the buffet line, so to speak. At a listed weight of 328, Smith appears to be on pace for training camp and in store for a far better season. That is, if the listed weight is accurate.

Not all weight gain is good weight gain, so Smith obviously needs to do things the right way. But getting up above his ideal playing weight by training camp may be a good strategy since weight loss is expected as the grind of training camp and rigors of the regular season wear on through the New Year.

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire