3 Cowboys Defenders Who Will Break Out Under Mike Zimmer

Which Dallas Cowboys defenders will break out under new DC Mike Zimmer?

Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys / Perry Knotts/GettyImages
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Not long ago, Dan Quinn was the hero the Dallas Cowboys needed defensively. The Cowboys ranked 28th in the NFL back in the 2020 season allowing 29.8 points per game, and Dan Quinn's arrival was a gift from the football gods.

Quinn's arrival, paired with some luck in the NFL Draft when Micah Parsons fell to their pick, the Cowboys jumped from allowing nearly 30 points per game to allowing just 21.1 points per game, 7th-best in the NFL.

Now, Quinn is gone and he's being replaced by former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. Zimmer is coming in with a lengthy history of some top-flight defenses, including his time as the head coach of the Vikings and before that as defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. Which players on the Cowboys' roster stand to benefit the most from Zimmer's arrival?

1. Mazi Smith, DL

The Dallas Cowboys are hoping for a breakout from Mazi Smith in year two no matter who is calling the plays defensively, but getting a set of fresh eyes on their first-rounder from last year's draft can't hurt. The Cowboys apparently had Smith playing 30 pounds lighter than his listed weight heading into the NFL Draft of 337 pounds, and not only that, but he was playing out of position as a 3-tech instead of a 1-tech.

I'm not quite sure why the Cowboys did that unless it was just to get their most talented guys all on the field at once, in which case you can understand it. But Zimmer might benefit by just putting Smith back in his original habitat, asking him to do what makes him great in the first place.

There will be opportunities to disrupt plays from the 1-tech position, even if the investment of a first-round pick in Smith would potentially yield better overall returns at the 3-tech. The Cowboys need Smith to break out in 2024 and boost a pretty horrendous-looking NFL Draft class.