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Mailbag: How does Mazi improve at the snap?


I keep reading about how Mazi Smith needs to improve his quickness at the snap, that he's getting pushed back at the line of scrimmage. One, is it truly a problem? And two, how does he actually improve how quickly he comes off the ball?Marcus Wright/Wichita, KS

Nick Eatman: I think this is a matter of lofty expectations that come with a first-round pick. While we've seen Tyler Smith have early success, Micah and CeeDee obviously were really good from the start, this isn't the same with Mazi because he plays a different position. There are plenty of reasons the Cowboys haven't drafted a defensive tackle in the first round since 1991, and one of them is because it's hard to gauge the exact value from this position, especially when you're expecting immediate results. Mazi isn't really getting moved around like people are saying. In fact, he's been doing a lot of the pushing in his direction. I think he had a couple of plays in the Seattle game in which he was turned around and the Seahawks had a big play. And you to take with the fact that he hasn't made a lot of wow plays, then it's easy to suggest that he's struggling right away. I wouldn't classify it as that. Like all rookies, he needs to make that leap and play better but I wouldn't say the team is discouraged at all by his performance so far.

Patrik: I can't speak for others but my eyes haven't seen Mazi Smith getting pushed back, though I have seen him doing the pushing. That said, his strength is incredible — like, seriously, it's other-worldly. The problem lies in the fact he won't be able to get by solely on his strength at this level, and therein lies the progression that needs to occur with his get-off on the snap, so I'll address that point. I don't think many people know what's happening here. Smith is being taught a different stance from the one he's accustomed to by Dan Quinn and the D-line coaches to get him thriving in this system. Ask yourself this: if you were to go to Japan and suddenly found the steering wheel on the right side of the car, would it take a little getting used to? That's what Mazi is doing. He knows how to drive the car, but he's being taught how to drive it differently — in a way that will also add a pass rush capability to the tools in his trunk.

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