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2023 Cowboys rookie report: Hard times for Deuce Vaughn against Patriots

Cowboys draft pick Deuce Vaughn struggled on Sunday, but UDFA fullback Hunter Luepke got in for a touchdown.

New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

The Cowboys got back in the win column, and did so in emphatic fashion with a 38-3 victory over the Patriots. This marked the worst loss in Bill Belichick’s career, a giant feather to put in the Cowboys’ caps. But how did the rookie class perform in this one? Let’s take a look.

iDL Mazi Smith

After three weeks of hardly seeing the field for various reasons, Mazi Smith finally saw an uptick in workload against the Patriots. He played on 31% of the defensive snaps, a season high for him, and that amounted to 17 total snaps on the day. For context, veteran run stuffer Johnathan Hankins played 21 snaps; Neville Gallimore played 18 snaps while Chauncey Golston played 15 snaps. Osa Odighizuwa was the only interior defensive lineman to play on more than half of the defensive snaps, as he had 30 snaps on the day.

In other words, Dan Quinn went with a very balanced rotation on the defensive line for this one, and Smith was not left out. He failed to record a tackle, but Smith put in another quietly good performance. He routinely got penetration against the run and was serviceable in his few pass rushing reps. It was nothing to write home about, but the uptick in usage for Smith is at least a positive sign that the coaching staff hasn’t given up on him, as had been suggested after last week.

TE Luke Schoonmaker

With Peyton Hendershot out, Luke Schoonmaker rose up to the TE2 role this week and actually tied Jake Ferguson for offensive snaps with 39. If his performance is anything to go off of, Schoonmaker should continue in that role going forward. The rookie tight end was moving defenders with regularity in the run game, building upon his already impressive profile as a run blocker.

Schoonmaker didn’t garner much production in the passing game, with zero catches on three targets. However, it’s notable that two of his three targets came in the red zone. He was charged with a drop in the endzone on one of those targets, though it would have been an admittedly difficult catch to make. Still, it seems that the staff views Schoonmaker as a viable red zone target, and it’ll be interesting to monitor his usage going forward.

LB DeMarvion Overshown

DeMarvion Overshown tore his ACL in the preseason and is on the injured reserve for the year.

DL Viliami Fehoko

Viliami Fehoko was inactive for this game.

OL Asim Richards

Asim Richards spent most of the day blocking for kicker Brandon Aubrey, but he did get seven snaps at left tackle late in the game when Dallas pulled their starters. It wasn’t really enough to show anything, but a good bit of work for the rookie.

CB Eric Scott Jr.

Eric Scott Jr. was inactive for this game.

RB Deuce Vaughn

After not seeing the field at all last week, Deuce Vaughn got some action against the Patriots, though it was largely due to an injury sustained by Rico Dowdle. Suffice it to say that Vaughn, who had 22 offensive snaps in this one, did not make the greatest case to see more work going forward.

Vaughn had eight carries on the day and only came up with nine yards, his longest run of the day going for just three yards. He also caught his lone target for just two yards. Vaughn lacked the explosion that made him a fan favorite early on in training camp and the preseason.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Vaughn was a liability in pass protection against the Patriots. He frequently got beat to his spot and got overpowered when he got there in time. On the whole, Vaughn surrendered two pressures in four pass blocking reps. That’s not a winning formula for the rookie a week after seeing zero offensive snaps.

WR Jalen Brooks

Jalen Brooks was inactive for this game.

G T.J. Bass

That we’re four games into the season and have seen T.J. Bass playing with the first team for at least a portion of reps in each game speaks to the confidence the coaches have in him. Bass subbed in for Zack Martin late in the game, in what has since been characterized as purely precautionary for Martin.

Bass only saw 16 snaps on offense, all at right guard, but he once again played well in spot duty. It bears repeating that the staff seems to have total confidence in him coming in when necessary, a good sign for the rookie.

FB Hunter Luepke

A week ago, Hunter Luepke recorded his first carry and first catch of his young career. This week, he scored his first career touchdown and, in doing so, put an end to the Cowboys’ red zone touchdown drought.

It was a special moment for Luepke, who has seen his role increase in the last two weeks. That was one of two carries, the other going for just one yard. In total, Luepke saw 14 snaps on offense; nine of them came as a lead blocker, four of them as a tailback, and one as a tight end. With the injury to Dowdle in this game and Vaughn’s struggles, Luepke could potentially be looking at an expanded role against the 49ers, who have a versatile fullback of their own in Kyle Juszczyk.

K Brandon Aubrey

It was very nearly a big day for Brandon Aubrey, as the Cowboys rolled him out onto the field to attempt a 66-yard field goal right before halftime. However, a false start penalty robbed Aubrey of the chance to attempt a field goal that Mike McCarthy later stated he has seen the young kicker make in practices.

That said, Aubrey still had a good day. He hit on all three field goals and all three extra points. The kicker has done a great job so far this year, and he’s clearly earned the trust of this coaching staff.

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