When Trevon Diggs suffered a season-ending torn ACL in practice, Cowboys fans couldn’t help but worry. Diggs was a ball hawk, leading the team in interceptions and making crucial plays. With Diggs sidelined, it appeared there might be a significant void to fill in the secondary.
However, as it turns out, the Cowboys had another ball hawk ready to step up, and his emergence may have saved the season.
A Promising Start with Trevon Diggs
At the time of Trevon Diggs’ injury, the Cowboys had won their first two games, including back-to-back victories over New York teams. Diggs had already made a mark with one interception, three defended passes, four tackles, and a forced fumble. He was living up to his reputation as a playmaker in the secondary.
In a non-starting role, DaRon Bland also had a solid start to the season. He had four tackles, one pass defended, a tackle for a loss, and a quarterback hit. What stood out was his 22-yard interception return for a touchdown in the season opener against the Giants.
A Sudden Turn of Events
Then came the Thursday practice before the game against the Arizona Cardinals, when Diggs tore his ACL. Although he recently underwent successful surgery and is expected to return in 2024, the Cowboys were left with a significant void in their defensive secondary.
In his first start following Diggs’ injury, Bland faced some coverage challenges, and the Cowboys’ defense appeared out of sync as they adjusted to life without Diggs. Despite this, Bland still managed to record six tackles, although many came after the receivers he was covering made receptions.
However, Bland quickly rebounded. In the subsequent games against the Patriots, 49ers, and Chargers, he intercepted two passes, including a 54-yard Pick Six, and performed well. His stellar performance continued as he returned another interception for a 30-yard score and added seven tackles along with two defended passes in a recent game.
A Breakout Season
With four interceptions on the year, three of which have come since becoming a starter, Bland is having a breakout season. His knack for turning interceptions into touchdowns is especially impressive, putting him in contention for the NFL record for Pick Sixes in a single season, currently held by Eric Allen, Jim Kearney, and Ken Houston at four.
Larry Brown held the Cowboys’ single-season record for Pick Sixes before Bland’s recent interception. As he continues to shine and teams are unable to avoid throwing in his direction due to Stephon Gilmore on the other side, Bland has a chance to break records.
A Bright Future
In just his second season, Bland has recorded nine interceptions in 24 games, with 13 starts. He’s on a trajectory similar to Paul Krause, an NFL Hall of Famer with 81 career interceptions, and he has already matched Krause’s number of interceptions returned for touchdowns.
Mel Renfro holds the Cowboys’ all-time interception record with 52 in 174 games. Both Bland and Diggs are on pace to challenge these records if they remain with the team long-term.
With the potential of keeping both players for years to come, the Cowboys’ defensive backfield appears poised to be a formidable force in the NFL.