The Dallas Cowboys defense took a significant hit when All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs tore his ACL at practice on September 21 and was ruled out for the rest of the 2023-2024 season.
At the time, many were left wondering how the injury would affect the Cowboys’ defense, as its depth would be tested in the secondary. But the unit has passed the test so far behind the play of second-year, fifth-round pick DaRon Bland, who now has 11 career interceptions and four touchdowns this season.
“He’s just a remarkable young player,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy told the media after Sunday’s game. “You just watch the way he plays, and it’s a great example of the details that he plays with, especially for a young corner. … I just can’t say enough about him. He’s done it since the first day. He played so well last year for us, and he’s having an incredible season.”
Bland returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over Carolina, helping Dallas break open what had been a 17-10 game entering the final quarter and tying the league’s 30-year-old record for most pick-sixes in a season. Now, he has his eyes on breaking the record with seven games left in the season.
“I just did it,” he told the media after the game. “I tied the record. Now, my mindset [is], I’m trying to break it. … I feel like that’s a play I can make on any given day.”
While Bland’s play has surprised some, his teammates have grown accustomed to him stepping in and making an impact.
“At this point, it’s routine,” safety Jayron Kearse told media in the locker room on Sunday. “Once he gets the ball in his hands, he’s getting into the end zone. That’s just the way it’s been.”
The defense could have folded when Diggs went down, but it held itself together, and much of that was because of the faith the rest of the unit had in Bland to fill Diggs’s shoes.
“It’s special,” linebacker Micah Parsons told the media. “We’ve seen it from one player who’s out this year who used to do stuff like that, and seeing him come into his own is truly special [and] remarkable. He’s having a Defensive Player of the Year year. He should be a lock for All-Pro. It shouldn’t be a question for the accolades he should be picking up. He’s on a remarkable, unbelievable run right now.”
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve only seen one other guy do that, so it’ll be fun to see how he finishes the year,” he added.