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Next Man Up: Can Deuce get loose in 2024?


Like many teams around the league, the Cowboys sent a strong message in free agency. However, it wasn't in the form of adding a lot of players or keeping the majority of their own. What seems clear for the Cowboys is their willingness to give opportunities to younger players on the team.

This roster is loaded with players still on their rookie contracts that haven't had that breakout season just yet. Could it be this year? The Cowboys can only hope, especially considering they signed just two players in free agency and currently have just six picks in the NFL Draft later this month.

So the Cowboys have to lean on some of their previous drafts and free-agent signings to help fill out this roster.

Today, we'll continue the series with running back Deuce Vaughn.

  • Name: Deuce Vaughn
  • Position: Running Back
  • Experience: 2nd Year
  • Games Played/Starts: 7 / 0
  • Years Left on Contract: 3
  • How Acquired: 6th round pick, 2023 (Kansas State)
  • Key Stat: Had just 80 yards from scrimmage (40 rushing, 40 receiving) on 30 touches in the regular season.

The Past: A rollercoaster of a season for Vaughn, who had plenty of highs and lows – pretty much in that order – during 2023. The emotional draft-day story when his dad, Chris Vaughn, a longtime Cowboys scout, was able to call him to announce the sixth-round selection, will go down as one of the most memorable moments in War Room history. Vaughn followed that up with an impressive showing in the preseason, scoring two touchdowns in limited action with a few other dazzling highlights, allowing many Cowboys fans to wonder if perhaps they had pulled off the steal of the draft. As it turned out, Vaughn never had an impact on the regular season. He played seven games but only managed 80 yards from scrimmage. He rushed the ball 23 times for 40 yards and caught seven passes for 40 as well. Getting him active for the game wasn't easy considering his lack of experience on special teams and the fact he wasn't getting consistent snaps on offense.

The Present: The Cowboys aren't giving up on Vaughn. Sure, he didn't produce to a high level, but that just meant he fit right in with the rest of the 2023 draft class. Needless to say, all of them – from Mazi Smith to Schoonmaker to Vaughn in the sixth round, the last rookie class could stand to improve from last year's showing. Vaughn actually played in seven games, which is more than half the class could say. Now, that doesn't mean he's ahead of the curve, it just means Vaughn shouldn't get docked because of what he didn't do. And now, the running back room is different than before. It'll be wide open to see who gets the ball. Vaughn needs to show he can be a dynamic player in the passing game, which also means he has to be willing and able to block the blitz. But considering that Royce Freeman and Rico Dowdle are the only experienced backs on the team right now, the door is open for all the young backs. Let's see if Vaughn can take advantage.

The Future: Nothing really matters except the present for players such as Vaughn. Sixth-round picks are longshots to make the team as it is. And players with his size are even longer shots to ever play in the NFL. Add those two together and the odds are still long for him to become a quality running back in this league. But odds never stopped him before and it won't now. Just like he did last year, Vaughn must take advantage of the preseason snaps he'll get and perhaps close the game in the return game on KaVontae Turpin where the Cowboys might think about a new look with the new return rules. One way or another, Vaughn must find a way to stand out, even with the deck stacked against him.

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