The Dallas Cowboys are one of several teams with a bye week in Week 7 of the NFL season. The bye comes in the early half of the season, but it's a good-enough slot to get Dallas some much-needed rest and relaxation ahead of a return to play on October 29 against the Los Angeles Rams.
At 4-2, Dallas should be optimistic overall about its performance thus far, but that's not to say there haven't been low points and areas they can look to improve. The early returns of Mike McCarthy taking over play-calling have been at times (if not overall) suspect, and the defense has been punished by a key injury to Trevon Diggs and up-and-down performances from much of the secondary.
Here's the latest news and rumors for the Cowboys.
Mazi Smith's young career gets reviews as Cowboys hit the bye week
Mazi Smith has drawn the ire of Cowboys fans early in his career because he's failed to pad his stats with sacks and tackles. Thus far Smith has four tackles (2 solo) and no sacks, with just one tackle for loss and no quarterback hits.
Expected to step right into the defensive and make meaningful contributions, some Cowboys fans have been let down.
Fans should keep in mind, though, that Smith hasn't seen the lion's share of snaps yet, only getting 97 thus far, 26% of the opportunities. The Cowboys are relatively stacked on the defensive end, so the need for Smith to step in and make an immediate starter-level contribution hasn't been there. That's what Aden Durde, defensive line coach, said on Smith to reporters (H/T Cowboys Wire):
"We’ve got a gang of rushers. It’s like a fight on the sideline to get out there and want to get out and compete.”
It takes, sometimes, pure exposure to grow into a DT role at the pro level.
Durde continued, praising Smith specifically and his growth, which might not be as steeply linear as fans would like:
"A lot of them, they’re getting like 80 snaps a game, the plays move fast, the coordinator’s telling them, they don’t have to listen to communication. Now all of that’s changed. You get into a huddle, someone gives you the communication, you line up, now what am I getting? These things are changing, I think, and as we’re going through this, Mazi’s growth and understanding of how to play the game at that level is growing. You can see week in [and] week out, he’s making marginal gains, and that’s what it’s about. He’s around a good group of players, he’s in a position where he can grow and he’s in the right place. He’s doing good.”
Todd Brock at Cowboys Wire praised Smith and his success thus far in doing things away from the stats, specifically pointing to his work occupying multiple opposing offensive linemen at once.
For those interested in Pro Football Focus's grading -- a good tool to use for positions like defensive tackle because it factors in some of the eye test elements that may not reflect in the stat sheet -- he is below average there, clocking in at 48.2 overall. But, looking at his segmented grades, you get a better look at where his potential lies. He grades 34.7 in run defense but a much better 67.9 in pass rush, sixth-best for Dallas behind the crop of usual superstars in that category.