Mike Zimmer Planning Big Changes for Mazi Smith

After Mazi Smith's rookie season was a bust, Dallas Cowboys DC Mike Zimmer has a plan to help get the promising defensive tackle back on track.
How will DT Mazi Smith bounce back in his second NFL season?
How will DT Mazi Smith bounce back in his second NFL season? / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It isn't a secret among Dallas Cowboys fans that Mazi Smith's rookie season was nothing short of disappointing. The former 2023 first-round selection looked out of place at the NFL level as Mike McCarthy's coaching staff put the ex-Michigan Wolverine in unfamiliar situations and even encouraged him to lose a ton of weight ahead of Year 1.

Having said that, Smith was seen as a project when he was drafted, so Cowboys fans are hoping that he can still develop into a key player on defense. That's why they'll be happy to hear that newly hired defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has a plan to help the 22-year-old get back on track.

Cowboys News: Mike Zimmer to Help Mazi Smith Bounce Back

Zimmer spoke to reporters — including The Athletic's Jon Machota — about a variety of topics on Wednesday, including what's expected of Smith going forward. The 67-year-old DC told the media that his first goal is to help Smith work on "the basics," ranging from his stance to improving his footwork and everything in between.

From there, Zimmer will work on the other holes in Smith's game with the hope that "he’s gonna be a good player like he was in college."

The one thing that Cowboys fans really want to know is Zimmer's plan regarding Smith's weight. According to Machota, the Grand Rapids, MI native weighed in the ballpark of 325 pounds when he was drafted, but eventually dropped to around 290 during the regular season.

The good news is that Zimmer has already been helping Smith to beef up this offseason. According to the defensive guru, Smith is already up to 305 pounds following offseason shoulder surgery. And while an "ideal weight" won't be announced, it seems like the second-year pro is trending in the right direction.

Hopefully, gaining weight and refining his game will lead to Smith being more productive in 2024. Ex-DC Dan Quinn's instance to play the young defender as a three-tech, which is a position often held by smaller and quicker defensive linemen, was another big reason why the rookie campaign was a bust.

Fortunately, Zimmer made plans to use Smith in more of a nose tackle role, which is where he excelled during his time with the Wolverines.

"[Smith] was trying to be an attacking, three-technique to get up the field and we’re going to probably play blocks a little bit more than that, try not to get reached, so linebackers know where they’re supposed to fit and so on and so forth."

Mike Zimmer

Smith played all 17 games (three starts) in his rookie year, registering nine solo tackles, three lost yardage tackles, three quarterback hits, and a sack. In other words, there's nowhere for him to go but up next season if Zimmer can successfully get him back on track.

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