KaVontae Turpin did not practice for a second straight day as he rehabs a shoulder injury suffered last week in Philadelphia. And while Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t seem overly concerned with his availability moving forward, Turpin’s status heading into Week 10 is suddenly something to watch.
Thursday’s practice workload revealed that a Turpin absence on Sunday might just crack the door open for a highly-anticipated rookie to get some much-needed game reps, albeit in a role he’s largely unfamiliar with.
Turpin sat out Wednesday and was considered questionable again on Thursday, McCarthy told reporters. The coach said he would be either working with the rehab group or, at best, limited, but media members present for practice later reported him as a non-participant for the open portion of the session.
If Turpin cannot go this Sunday, the Cowboys will obviously have to decide who fills in for him as he continues to grow into an increasing role in the Dallas offense.
The bigger worry, though, if Turpin’s shoulder doesn’t cooperate, is re-assigning his return duties. He’s averaging 31.7 yards per kick return, placing him within the league’s top ten. As a punt returner, he’s had just 10 runbacks; his 11 fair catches are top-ten in the league and an indicator of how often opponents are only giving him balls that cannot be returned.
But Turpin is the only player on the Cowboys roster who has done both return jobs this season. Rico Dowdle and Hunter Luepke have handled five kicks between them in 2023, while Jalen Tolbert and Deuce Vaughn have fielded one punt each.
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Reporters at Thursday’s practice session observed Dowdle, Vaughn, and safety Juanyeh Thomas practicing kick returns while Vaughn was taking reps as a punt returner, with Turpin giving him close coaching.
Deuce Vaughn is taking returner reps today while KaVontae Turpin (shoulder) talking with him after almost every rep.
Mike McCarthy said Turpin was “questionable” for practice today. pic.twitter.com/2f4NW4Nl5S
— Jess Nevarez (@JessNevarez_) November 9, 2023
The sixth-round draft pick has been inactive the past three games and was largely ineffective on the handful of snaps he played over the first five weeks.
Vaughn’s 10-yard punt return against San Francisco in Week 5 was his first at either the pro or college level.
But the 5-foot-5 rookie running back showed blistering speed and shiftiness throughout training camp, just as he had done collegiately at Kansas State. Depending on Turpin’s shoulder, Vaughn may finally get the chance to put those skills on display at the pro level in a brand new way.