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Cowboys 2023 rookie report: Quiet night for first-year players in dominant win

The Cowboys had a fantastic first game of the season, but they didn’t really need their rookies to do it.

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

The Cowboys have officially begun their 2023 season, and it went off with a tremendous bang. While they scored a demonstrative 40-0 win over the Giants on the road, it wasn’t exactly a big night for many of the rookies in this year’s class.

That’s almost a good thing, since the Cowboys are so loaded with talented veterans that they don’t need to rely as much on their first-year players. Let’s take a look at how the rookies did in their limited action from Sunday night.

iDL Mazi Smith

Mazi Smith made his NFL debut, but didn’t see much run. His 17 defensive snaps were the lowest along the defensive line, and he didn’t see any action on special teams either. However, veteran Johnathan Hankins only played one more snap than Smith, which suggests that this was more about matching a Giants offense that was almost exclusively throwing the ball in an attempt to dig themselves out of a hole.

For his part, Smith was credited with two tackles on the night, one of them being for a loss. He also recorded a pressure despite playing on just seven true pass rush snaps. It was a very small sample size for Smith, but the results were largely positive. Hopefully, he’ll have more opportunities next week.

TE Luke Schoonmaker

Luke Schoonmaker assumed the role of TE3 in this one, playing on just 28% of the offensive snaps behind both Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot. Schoonmaker didn’t have a pass thrown his way, and saw most of his playing time on special teams, where he tied C.J. Goodwin for the team lead in snaps.

That’s to be expected for a rookie who missed the start of training camp, but it might not last. Schoonmaker impressed once he finally got into preseason games, and Ferguson - who was targeted seven times Sunday night but only had two catches - struggled in his first game as TE1. If that continues to be the case, don’t be surprised if Schoonmaker starts getting opportunities with the offense.

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 night on the sidelines, not even getting special teams work with the kicking unit. But he came in late in the game for one snap when Tyron Smith left for a play, and later came back in when the Cowboys pulled their starters.

Richards only saw nine total snaps at left tackle, all of them coming in garbage time, so it wasn’t much to go off of. For what it’s worth, he didn’t give up a pressure in any of his three pass blocking snaps. That’s a good way to get the rookie’s feet wet, at least.

CB Eric Scott Jr.

Eric Scott Jr. was inactive for this game.

RB Deuce Vaughn

The People’s Choice! The smol rb! Deuce Vaughn made his debut after a preseason filled with well-earned hype, though it took some time for him to get in the game. Tony Pollard had a heavy load and Rico Dowdle spelled him, with Vaughn playing on just one offensive snap before the starters were pulled.

Once that happened, Vaughn received six carries but only managed to get eight yards out of them. Of course, this was garbage time and Vaughn was playing behind backup offensive linemen against a defense that knew the run was coming. Hopefully, Vaughn will get more work in the future, as his explosiveness deserves to see meaningful snaps.

WR Jalen Brooks

Jalen Brooks was inactive for this game.

G T.J. Bass

T.J. Bass was getting some work on special teams with the kicking unit, going out on the field for all of Brandon Aubrey’s kicks. He also got into the game at left guard when Chuma Edoga - the backup who was pushed into starting duty when Tyler Smith was unable to go - left with a minor injury.

Like Asim Richards, Bass hardly got a chance to show anything, playing on just nine offensive snaps. Also like Richards, he was flawless in his three lone pass blocking reps. The undrafted rookie came a long way to make this roster, so it was nice to see him get in the game in Week 1.

FB Hunter Luepke

Hunter Luepke, the fullback who can run and catch, made his debut Sunday night with a very limited role. He played on 12 special teams snaps and also had four offensive snaps, all as a lead blocker. He showed the same intensity and strength that won him the roster spot in preseason, but Luepke didn’t get asked to do much more beyond that.

K Brandon Aubrey

Brandon Aubrey, the soccer player turned football kicker, made his NFL debut Sunday night after an up-and-down preseason that ultimately saw him claim the job. Things did not start off great for the Plano, Texas native, missing his first extra point in particularly ugly fashion and immediately eliciting calls for Mason Crosby or Robbie Gould.

Aubrey picked it up from there, though. He hit his next four extra points, and was easily good on both field goal attempts, one from 21 yards out and another from 38. Some slack also needs to be given to Aubrey for kicking in the middle of a torrential downpour, which made it significantly harder to kick. For example, consistent veteran Graham Gano shanked a field goal late in the second quarter for the Giants, a testament to how difficult it was to kick in those conditions.

All in all, Aubrey’s debut has to be considered a success. He settled into a groove and looked comfortable by night’s end. Oh, and each of his kickoffs soared out of the back of the endzone, showing off his impressive leg.

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