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2023 Cowboys rookie report: Deuce Vaughn returns in game against Lions

How have you felt about Cowboys rookies this season?

Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Cowboys snapped their first (and only) losing streak on the year with a close, and controversial, win at home over the Lions. There were a handful of great performances from star players, though the Cowboys’ rookies were short on big moments in this one.

iDL Mazi Smith

Despite Johnathan Hankins missing his third straight game, Mazi Smith’s snap count went down this week. His 16 defensive snaps were fourth among interior defenders after he had been second each of the last two weeks. That was despite the fact that Dallas faced a fairly run heavy offense in the Lions.

Smith’s performance didn’t improve with the reduction in workload, either. He failed to record a tackle and was getting pushed around most of the night. Smith had been playing fairly well most of this season, but his struggles last week led to a smaller role and continued struggles this week. That’s not the trend you want to see for a rookie towards the end of the regular season.

TE Luke Schoonmaker

Luke Schoonmaker continued his timeshare with Peyton Hendershot as the backup tight end in this offense, playing 17 offensive snaps to Hendershot’s 18 reps. Schoonmaker only ran two routes on the day without a single target, but he did solid work as a run blocker. It seems as though Hendershot has absorbed the limited targets Schoonmaker was seeing in his absence, though.

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 is on the injured reserve.

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

Deuce Vaughn made his way onto the game day active roster for the first time since Week 10, when he primarily filled in for KaVontae Turpin as the punt returner. This was also the first time since the Week 5 loss to the 49ers that Vaughn received multiple carries.

It wasn’t anything special, though. Vaughn had two carries for just two yards, but he also hauled in his lone reception for 10 yards on a screen pass in which he picked up 14 yards after the catch. Vaughn will likely go back to being an inactive once Rico Dowdle returns from his injury, though.

WR Jalen Brooks

Jalen Brooks was active in this game for the first time since Week 12, and he mostly played on special teams. Brooks did see two offensive snaps, though both came on running plays where Brooks was asked to block.

G T.J. Bass

T.J. Bass was once again called upon to fill in for an injured player, this time taking over at left guard when Tyler Smith left with an injury. Bass, who hadn’t played left guard since Week 2, finished the game in Smith’s place and was one of three linemen to yield zero pressures on the day.

Bass’ continued growth throughout his rookie season has been an under-the-radar development for the Cowboys, as he’s turned into a reliable depth piece in the trenches. Bass has apparently even supplanted Chuma Edoga as the top backup left guard, as Edoga had filled that role earlier in the year.

FB Hunter Luepke

Hunter Luepke didn’t have a chance to redeem himself from his costly fumble a week ago, but he remained a part of this offense. Luepke saw eight offensive snaps, just as many as Vaughn, with all but one of them coming as a traditional lead blocker.

K Brandon Aubrey

Brandon Aubrey made all four kicks in this one, with two extra points and two field goals. The field goals were from 51 and 43 yards, which extended his perfect record on field goals for the year.

Aubrey is now just one game away from having made every single field goal for the entire season. That would make him just the 10th kicker in NFL history (with at least 22 attempts on the year) to accomplish such a feat.

LB Tyrus Wheat

Tyrus Wheat filled his usual role, playing on 14 special teams snaps throughout the game.

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