ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys’ defense suffered a significant setback when Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs got injured. Diggs, who shares the NFL record for the most interceptions since 2020, was a key player for the Cowboys. However, the team found a surprising replacement in second-year cornerback DaRon Bland. Bland, a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, seamlessly transitioned to playing outside corner in 2023. On Sunday, he recorded his third pick-six of the season, the most in the NFL. Bland’s interception return touchdown of Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford’s pass intended for Cooper Kupp gave the Cowboys a 14-point lead, leading to their dominant 43-20 victory over the Rams.
The Cowboys’ aggressive blitz forced Stafford to throw quickly, and Bland capitalized by intercepting the pass and returning it for a touchdown. This marks Bland’s third interception-return touchdown of the season, setting a new record for the Cowboys. Bland is now only one pick-six away from tying the single-season NFL record of four, which was last achieved in 1993 by Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Eric Allen.
“It means a lot,” Bland said. “You know [Trevon] Diggs, he was always wanting to get the ball. Just being able to step in, it feels good.”
Bland, who was considered an underdog as a fifth-round pick, has exceeded expectations and impressed Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones. Jones praised Bland’s performance, anticipating a promising future for the young cornerback.
Bland, who started his career as a fill-in nickel cornerback last season, displayed his talent by recording five interceptions as a rookie. This season, despite switching positions to outside cornerback, Bland has continued to shine. He currently boasts the best passer rating allowed in coverage among all players with 40 or more targets, with an impressive 10.7 rating. Bland’s exceptional performance has solidified his position as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.
“That’s why I said he’s that guy,” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said. “Not a lot of guys are able to move positions like that and make the impact that he’s been able to make. He’s a mature man that prepares the right way. He does it within his play on the field, does it in practice. He has another guy on the other side like Stephon to teach him. He has been impressive. This is only the beginning.”
Bland’s three pick-sixes tied the NFL record for the most in a team’s first seven games. He has now surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders in pick-sixes during his time with the Cowboys. In addition, Bland leads the NFL in interceptions since his debut in 2022, with a total of nine interceptions. His impressive performance has earned praise from Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, who described him as a consistent and instinctive player.