untung99.biz: Deuce Vaughn shows he belongs with electric debut helps case in Cowboys RB battle

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ARLINGTON, Texas — There aren’t many moments during a preseason game that anticipation is palpable amongst the assembled crowd. When Deuce Vaughn took a handoff on the first play from scrimmage in the second half of Saturday evening’s preseason opener for the Dallas Cowboys, the energy of the announced crowd of 81,204 rose to the surface.

“I never notice the crowd whenever I’m playing,” Vaughn said. “I feel like you’re so locked in and everything but just knowing that support is there, it’s huge. It’s a lot of confidence for yourself when you’re playing. It’s unreal. The crowd was electric tonight.”

Vaughn has been one of the training camp standouts in Oxnard, Calif. His stature — Vaughn is listed at 5-foot-5, 180 pounds — and charisma have contributed to quickly making him a fan-favorite but those things alone don’t land someone on an NFL roster. What Vaughn showed Saturday on the field, running and catching the ball, is what does the trick.

“I’ve been telling people since I got here, I played against Deuce for three years (when he was) at Kansas State,” DeMarvion Overshown said. “Don’t be surprised when he comes out there and does what he was doing today because I’ve seen it. I know what he’s capable of. I’m glad on the same team as him now.”


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For those who wanted to see how all of the training camp hype would translate to game action, the wait was long. Malik Davis and Rico Dowdle made up the running back rotation in the first half. KaVontae Turpin got the first look at returning punts. When Vaughn finally got on the field in the first quarter to await a Jaguars kickoff, the ball sailed through the end zone for a touchback. When Vaughn took Turpin’s place as the punt returner, he had to just watch the ball helplessly bounce to a stop.

“Just stayed patient,” Vaughn said. “That was the game plan coming into the game. I was making sure I was going to be behind Malik and Rico whenever they were in, just looking and seeing things that were going on throughout the game so that whenever it was my time, I could go in and be successful.”

Finally, midway through the second quarter, Vaughn fielded a kickoff halfway in the end zone.

“After I let the first one go, especially with the guys that were out there on that kickoff return team, they were saying, ‘We’re right there behind you,’” Vaughn said. “Caught it a little bit deep but with them telling me that when we were in the huddle, I knew those guys had my back.”

Vaughn’s night aged like a glass of fine wine. The kickoff return offered a glimpse of the burst Vaughn showed for years at Kansas State and throughout the first three weeks of training camp. His first carry in the third quarter resulted in a modest six-yard gain but was an example of the patience and vision Vaughn has as a runner. One minute later, Vaughn emptied out his vault of moves in one play, spinning out of one tackle and then cutting out of another.

For a rookie sixth-round pick, that collection of plays would have made for a solid night. But Vaughn still hadn’t showed off his best plays of the night. In what was arguably his best play of the game, Vaughn took a handoff late in the third quarter, needing one yard for a first down. He slowed down for a half second to size up the blocking in front of him. As soon as he saw the hole created by the blocks of John Stephens and Luke Schoonmaker, he burst through the first layer and into the secondary.

“Great blocking,” Vaughn said. “It opened up real nice, got me to the second level. Whenever you get to that second level, I feel like that’s where I excel, that’s where I do well … any time you got a safety coming from the post and it’s a one-on-one, I like myself.”

On the second half of that run, Vaughn brought Dak Prescott’s words from two weeks ago to life.

“This is a league that guys don’t wrap up a lot,” Prescott said. “He’s going to bounce off of a lot of those with his great balance. … He’s going to be tough for guys to tackle.”

Jaguars safety Antonio Johnson was the first victim of that. Johnson tried lean in on Vaughn with his shoulder to hit him. Vaughn, running full speed ahead, made a quick cut to the inside and Johnson instead hit his own teammate while Vaughn sprung himself ahead and slipped out of another tackle before being tackled after a 26-yard gain.

Later in the same drive, Vaughn showed off his versatility. With quarterback Will Grier under heavy pressure on third-and-3, Vaughn, matched up on linebacker Shaquille Quarterman and ran an angle route to the middle. Grier threw the ball high and slightly behind. Vaughn contorted his body to make the catch.

“(I take) a whole bunch of pride (in pass-catching),” Vaughn said. “I feel like that’s just another part of being versatile throughout the backfield. I get on the Jugs (machine) every single day. Malik Davis keeps me accountable, we get on the Jugs after every single thing, whether it’s a practice or after a mock game. We’re on those Jugs, pretty much the last two out there every single day. I take a lot of pride in it.”

On the next play, Vaughn capped off the drive by getting the ball on the read-option and falling back into the end zone for his first touchdown in the NFL.

Because of his size, the view on Vaughn can sometimes twist into him being looked at as a gadget player. In his NFL debut, Vaughn showed to be much more than that. With four rushes for three yards and four catches for 19 yards, Davis didn’t do much to solidify his standing as second on the depth chart, though he was playing behind a makeshift offensive line for Dallas and against better competition than Vaughn starred against in the second half. Dowdle had strong moments but his fumble at the goal line cast a dark cloud over his performance.

When asked what Vaughn was able to prove Saturday, the running back said he showed that he belongs. He also mentioned that he didn’t show everything that he wanted to, that there were some things he wanted back. With a strong performance behind him, Vaughn quickly shifted his focus to the future,

“I feel like that’s the biggest thing for myself, coming in and proving people that believe in me, right,” Vaughn said. “It doesn’t stop now. You go back to work Monday and you get ready for the next preseason game.”

(Photo: Ron Jenkins / Getty Images)

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