Cowboys who need to step up in Week 1: 1. Mazi Smith
The Cowboys reached to draft Mazi Smith in Round 1 of April's draft in an effort to bulk up their run stopping ablity. The former Michigan man is going to be thrown right into the fire when he tries to contain Saquon Barkley on Sunday night.
In fairness, the rookie defensive tackle will need lots of help if he's going to keep New York's dynamic running back in check. Smith should be judged on his ability to plug up the middle against the Giants' ground gain. Runs on the perimeter shouldn't be held against Smith in his first game as a pro.
In particular, fans should keep a close eye on Smith when he's matched up against fellow rooke John Michael Schmitz. The latter is expected to start for New York at center which means he'll be tasked with opening up holes for Barkley through the middle of the Cowboys defense.
If Barkley gets off to a good start on the ground then the Cowboys defense will struggle to keep the score down. Smith shouldn't be expected to log tons of tackles, but he does need to prove he can slow the opposing run game down. If he plays poorly against New York then the Cowboys should already be having regrets about spending a first-round pick on his services. An outstanding performance in the opener could go a long way towards establish Smith as a building block for the Cowboys defense.