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DaRon Bland

DaRon Bland Stepping Up For Cowboys

  • Jack McKessy
  • December 8, 2022
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Rookie cornerback DaRon Bland was nothing more than a depth piece for the Dallas Cowboys for most of the early season, but since he’s been thrust into a more important (and eventually, starting) role, he’s stepped up to the challenge.

The Cowboys’ secondary has been devastated by injuries this season. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis’ season ended in Week 7 after he suffered a Lisfranc injury in a game against the Detroit Lions. Even more recently, fellow cornerback Anthony Brown tore his Achilles tendon in the Cowboys’ matchup with the Colts in Week 13. Since Lewis’ injury, and especially since Brown’s, Bland has taken over a more important role in Dallas’ defense. Against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football, he showed everyone that he’s more than just capable depth at nickel.

Bland’s two interceptions were obviously the highlights of his night, but we’ll get to those later, as they weren’t the only great plays he made during the course of the game. In fact, the interceptions might not even have been his most impressive plays of the game.

That title belongs to Bland’s break up of a pass intended for receiver Parris Campbell on a two-point conversion attempt earlier in the game. With the Colts trailing just 21-13 late in the third quarter, the team decided to go for two after scoring on a 15-play, 90-yard touchdown drive to try to tie the game at 21.

On a well-designed play intended to isolate the rookie Bland in one-on-one coverage against Campbell, the cornerback came up big time. He never panicked despite not getting outside leverage on the receiver’s out route and was patient in making contact until after the ball was close. Bland just timed his dive perfectly, swiping his arm across Campbell’s to force the pass incomplete in a play that made him look more like a veteran than a rookie. The Colts didn’t score another point for the rest of the night.

Of course, part of the reason Indianapolis was unable to score again was, again, because of Bland. His pair of interceptions, which were a couple of other great plays, showed just how good the rookie is at reading routes and making a play on the ball when it came his way.

On his first interception, Bland took advantage of quarterback Matt Ryan’s need to loft the ball over fellow cornerback Trevon Diggs to step in front of tight end Kylen Granson and timed his leap to take the ball away. On his second, Bland showed off his athleticism in addition to his strong ability to read routes, breaking on the receiver as he started to sit on his route and using his speed to snatch the ball out from the hands of Ashton Dulin.

On a night in which the Cowboys desperately needed their depth pieces to step up, especially at some of the most crucial moments of the game, Bland heard the call and did just that. Of the seven times the rookie was targeted, he allowed just four completions for 25 yards. The three other targets resulted in either a pass breakup or an interception, resulting in a passer rating of 25.0 for Ryan when targeting Bland.

How the rookie and the rest of Dallas’ beat-up secondary will respond against stiffer competition and better offenses will remain the big question going into the postseason. But Bland’s big day helped pull the Cowboys to a Sunday Night Football win and will serve as a great performance for the rookie to build on in the weeks ahead.

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Jack McKessy