After winning 12 games during the regular season and one in the playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys are back at work with lofty expectations for the 2023 campaign. They've made several moves, including a change at offensive coordinator.
Kellen Moore is out and in his place is Brian Schottenheimer. However, it will be head coach Mike McCarthy calling plays, something he did for his entire tenure with the Green Bay Packers.
While that brings an interesting dynamic, the wins and losses typically come down to what the players do on the field. With that in mind, here are five Cowboys who will make or break the 2023 season.
5. Deuce Vaughn, RB
Dallas was guilty of sticking with Ezekiel Elliott for far too long and not leaning on Tony Pollard nearly enough. They finally figured things out in 2022, just in time for Pollard to hit the open market. The franchise tag kept him in town and he will be the lead back with Zeke released.
While he's proven more than capable of handling the load, he's also coming off a fractured fibula and high ankle sprain suffered in the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Even without the injury, Pollard isn't built to carry the ball 20-plus times per game. Then again, no player should have to do that since it significantly lowers their effectiveness. That's why the No. 2 running back will be wildly important and in Dallas, that should be Deuce Vaughn.
Listed at 5-foot-5 and 179 pounds, Vaughn isn't going to be an NFL workhorse — and if Pollard were lost for any time, Malik Davis or Ronald Jones would likely be the lead back. But Vaughn will be even more important than either of them as a change-of-pace guy.
His explosiveness will help keep defenses honest and having him available for five-10 touches per game will give this offense another element.
He will be asked to be what Pollard was to Elliott, and if he does that job well this offense will thrive.