The Cowboys didn't come away with the win in their preseason opener, but it wasn't all bad. Rookie running back Deuce Vaughn put on a show against the Jaguars, proving that his offseason hype is well warranted.
Vaughn was effective with the ball in his hands, turning 8 carries into 50 yards with a fourth-quarter touchdown and even hauled in all three of his targets for six yards. By the end of the game, there was no question who Dallas' best backfield performer was.
While a strong preseason performance isn't indicative of how the regular season will go, Vaughn's showing made one thing clear: the Cowboys don't need Ezekiel Elliott.
The need for new blood in the Cowboys' RB room popped up this season when the team released Elliott due to cap-related reasons back in March. But even though the release happened nearly five months ago, it hasn't stopped people like Jerry Jones from entertaining the idea that a reunion is possible.
After all, it's understandable that some fans were upset at the time. Elliott is a fan favorite who rushed for over 8,000 yards with 68 TDs over seven seasons with America's Team. The need for another RB became even more evident once Ronald Jones II was hit with a two-game suspension.
The thing is that today's Elliott is no longer in his prime and it's time to forget about a reunion. That fact was made evident last year when he failed to rush for 900 yards for the first time in his career (876) while averaging a personal-worst 3.8 yards per carry.
Vaughn's small sample size during the preseason opener was more exciting to watch than most of what Elliott did last season. The incoming rookie used his agility and elusiveness to make defenders look foolish, proving that his 5-foot-5 rame won't hold him back.
It also makes sense for the Cowboys to continue rewarding Vaughn for exceeding all expectations this summer. He didn't get too much attention as a sixth-round pick following the 2023 NFL Draft but began stealing headlines when training camp started and seems to wow the coaching staff and fanbase with each passing day.
Even with Jones getting suspended, Vaughn was still expected to be behind Malik Davis and Rico Dowdle on the depth chart but he's been outperforming them, too. The duo combined for just 24 rushing yards on 10 carries against the Jaguars, further proving that Dallas could be on to something special with Vaughn.
At the end of the day, there's just no room for Elliott in this era of the Cowboys. As much as he did for the franchise, he's no longer at the point in his career where he moves the needle closer toward a Super Bowl.
Vaughn has the tools and upside to be a real game-changer in Dallas' backfield. Bringing in a past-his-prime Elliott would only limit the rookie's potential and overcomplicate an already-shaky situation.
The Cowboys need Vaughn to reach his true potential if they're to go on a championship run this season. As it stands, they have the sixth-best odds to win the Super Bowl.
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