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2023 Cowboys rookie report: Mazi Smith breaks out versus Giants

Mazi Smith really stood out against the Giants.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Cowboys are riding high after a thorough trouncing of the Giants at home. It seemed like everyone played well in this game, with maybe three or four truly bad moments throughout the entire game. That’s true for the rookies too, who largely had a good day.

iDL Mazi Smith

Mazi Smith easily had his best game of the year on Sunday. It’s also no coincidence that this was the game where he played the most snaps. As the lead grew larger in this one, Smith started to take more and more reps; he actually finished second among Dallas interior defenders for snaps with a 44% snap share.

Smith ended up logging three tackles on the day, with two run stops and one tackle for loss. His average depth of tackle was -0.3 yard, an indicator of how well he played. Smith also flashed in the pass game, logging a pressure and hit in just nine true pass sets. Smith has been putting up solid tape all year, but the light workload made it hard to really notice. Having a game like this after finally seeing a larger share of snaps should put to rest the debate over whether or not he’s a bust.

TE Luke Schoonmaker

Luke Schoonmaker just can’t catch a pass break. After being on the wrong end of the replay review a week ago, Schoonmaker had another unfortunate play in this game. Playing on 36% of the offensive snaps Sunday, Schoonmaker saw just one target. Dak Prescott hit him right in the hands on a play-action boot, but Schoonmaker dropped it as he tried to turn upfield too early.

It wasn’t all bad, as Schoonmaker continued to do work in the blocking game. He notably made a huge block that broke CeeDee Lamb free on his touchdown run for the Cowboys’ first score. But Schoonmaker needs to start showing growth as a pass catcher fast.

LB DeMarvion Overshown

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

EDGE Viliami Fehoko

Viliami Fehoko was inactive for this game.

OL Asim Richards

Asim Richards was inactive for this game.

CB Eric Scott Jr.

Eric Scott Jr. was inactive for this game.

RB Deuce Vaughn

With KaVontae Turpin out with an injury, Deuce Vaughn found himself back on the gameday active roster as the primary punt returner. It was a mixed bag for Vaughn, who fielded four of the Giants’ seven punts on the day. One was a fair catch, while two others totaled a loss of two yards. But Vaughn also returned one for 11 yards, setting the Cowboys up right near midfield for what turned into a scoring drive.

Vaughn also got in the game on offense late in the fourth quarter. His lone carry got blown up at the line for a loss of two yards, but he also caught one pass for 11 yards, showing off his ability after the catch. Critically, Vaughn also had two very good reps as a pass protector, an area that he’d struggled earlier in the year. It remains to be seen if Vaughn will remain active going forward, but he certainly showed some improvements in this game.

WR Jalen Brooks

Jalen Brooks was active for this game, just the third time all season. However, Brooks got some work with the first-team offense in the game, and he did not fail to impress. The rookie played on 31% of the offensive snaps, and got quite a bit of work in the passing game.

All told, Brooks saw four targets against the Giants and caught all four of them for 39 yards, with 26 of those yards coming after the catch. He made one especially impressive contested catch, showing off the physicality he flashed in training camp. Three of Brooks’ four receptions went for first downs. It was a pretty good first real game for the rookie receiver.

G T.J. Bass

It’s been a while since T.J. Bass really got on the field on offense, but the blowout gave him the biggest workload he’s seen since starting in Week 3. Bass played 18 snaps on offense, in addition to blocking for Brandon Aubrey’s kicks. While Bass only had one true pass set in the limited action, he still came away with zero pressures.

FB Hunter Luepke

Even in the blowout, Hunter Luepke didn’t get a chance to touch the ball this time. He played on five offensive snaps, with three of them coming as a blocker. Luepke didn’t see a carry or a target, but he continued to hold down his usual role.

K Brandon Aubrey

Brandon Aubrey didn’t get a chance to add to his impressive field goal totals this week, but that’s a good problem to have. The kicker settled for simply drilling extra points like nobody’s business, going a perfect seven for seven.

LB Tyrus Wheat

Tyrus Wheat continues to be a core piece of this special teams unit, playing 21 snaps there on Sunday. He also got a little action on defense with 15 defensive snaps late in the fourth quarter. On one punt, Wheat looked to be mere millimeters away from blocking it, just narrowly missing. Maybe he’ll get another shot later this year.

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