The Cowboys are still reeling from the embarrassment that was losing to the Cardinals 28-16. The whole team looked out of sorts, and it was almost like the team we’ve watched the last two weeks didn’t even show up. For many in the rookie class, that was quite literally the case. Let’s take a look at how the Cowboys rookies fared in this one.
iDL Mazi Smith
Mazi Smith barely played in the Cowboys’ first two games this year, but it didn’t seem like cause for concern with the way those games had gone; the fact that he played as many snaps as fellow run-stuffer Johnathan Hankins through two weeks seemed to reflect that Smith’s snap count was just about the flow of the game. Well, that wasn’t the case this week.
Smith only played 12 defensive snaps, about in line with his usage over the first two games, but Hankins saw 35 snaps (over half the defensive snaps) against a very run-heavy Cardinals offense. Only Sam Williams and Markquese Bell, rotational players, saw fewer defensive snaps than Smith.
That said, Smith did once again flash in his limited action. He had two plays where he blew up the run and forced the ball carrier into the arms of another Cowboys defender, and he also recorded one tackle on the day. Smith only had four pass rush reps in the game, and all of them came on play-action concepts, which makes it harder for defenders to really execute their pass rush plan.
Smith looked good in the little bit we saw of him against the Cardinals, to be clear. However, it has to be considered at least somewhat concerning that he isn’t seeing the field much at all even when Hankins is getting work against the run.
TE Luke Schoonmaker
After an increase in snaps a week ago that led to his first catch and first touchdown, Luke Schoonmaker reverted to TE3 this week with 19 offensive snaps, coming in far behind that of Peyton Hendershot.
Schoonmaker almost exclusively worked as a blocker in this game, and his lone target turned into a drop on second and short. It was a game to forget for the rookie, but he was far from the only Cowboy who will be ready to move on to the next one.
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 only played on four special teams snaps all day, exclusively blocking on kicks for Brandon Aubrey. Even with the instability on the offensive line, Richards wasn't called up to the offense in this one.
CB Eric Scott Jr.
Eric Scott Jr. was inactive for this game.
RB Deuce Vaughn
Deuce Vaughn was active for this game, but he may as well have not been. Vaughn didn’t see a single snap on offense and only one snap on special teams. His lack of inclusion in the gameplan this week was one of the more confusing parts of this game.
WR Jalen Brooks
Jalen Brooks was inactive for this game.
G T.J. Bass
Welcome to the NFL, T.J. Bass! In just his third game in the league, Bass was asked to make his first career start in place of future Hall of Famer Zack Martin. Not only that, but Bass was doing so alongside Brock Hoffman, also making his first career start. Bass had received playing time in the past two weeks, but starting a game and playing the full length of it is a different story.
Bass performed about as you’d expect for an undrafted rookie making his first start ever. He gave up a team high three pressures, though none of them turned into a hit or sack on the quarterback. Bass was much more comfortable in the run game, where his strength and movement skills shined.
It was pretty obvious that Bass was a weak point on the offensive line in this game, but that is to be expected given the circumstances. In the full context of the game, Bass performed up to expectations. It was enough to show why he made the roster to begin with, but also enough to know that the Cowboys don’t want him to be starting many more games this early in his career.
FB Hunter Luepke
Hunter Luepke had arguably the best game for any rookie on this team. The fullback only saw eight snaps on offense but he made the most of them. He notched his first career carry, taking the handoff on third and short and crashing through the defense for nine yards. Earlier in the game, Luepke also caught his first pass, taking it 12 yards to move the chains on first down.
Catch and run for Hunter Luepke out of the I formation: pic.twitter.com/T6pjMbcnwC— Fullback Watch (@FullbackWatch) September 24, 2023
Luepke also continued to show off his great blocking skills, both in pass protection and in the run game. He had several key blocks that helped to spring Tony Pollard loose. Luepke didn’t get a lot of run in this one, but he made the most of his snaps.
K Brandon Aubrey
If there’s a bright side to this game, it’s that Brandon Aubrey seems to be very reliable. He was perfect on the day, making all three field goals from distances of 26, 27, and 49 yards with plenty of room to spare. It also marked a historic achievement for the young kicker:
Dallas Cowboys kicker Brandon Aubrey is the first kicker in the Super Bowl era to attempt at least 10 field goals in the first 3 games of his career and successfully make all of them.— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) September 25, 2023
Aubrey has also remained consistent on kickoffs, booting them out of the back of the endzone with ease. He did have his first ever kickoff get returned this week, though it appeared to be one that was intentional based on where the ball was caught. All in all, Aubrey has put to rest any of the doubts around him that once existed.