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Offseason | 2024

Bland talks prep after historic season, Diggs return


FRISCO, Texas — All the world's a stage, and the audience has its eyes affixed to it with a blazing curiosity to see what DaRon Bland can do as an encore to his encore. After all, he followed his breakout rookie season with a record-setting second campaign for the Dallas Cowboys in 2023 — proving he can dominate either as a nickel back or as a shutdown outside corner.

The latter saw him deliver a historic five pick-sixes in 2023 along with ending the season as the league's leader in interceptions, and he now has 14 interceptions in his first 23 NFL starts.

It goes without saying that the former fifth-round pick is becoming a household name.

"It's definitely harder to keep a low profile after last season, but I'm enjoying it," said Bland, wearing a big smile after enjoying the 2024 Reliant Home Run Derby to benefit The Salvation Army.

But don't plan on him changing his approach this offseason because, well, it ain't broke so Bland isn't trying to fix it.

"It's all been the same," said the First-Team All-Pro of his offseason approach heading into Year 3. "Gotta keep it the same. "I always have the same expectations. It [did] improve my confidence, going into more years in this league as well. I'm going into my third year so, yeah, I'm more confident now."

It certainly works in the Cowboys' favor that Bland isn't the only record-setting cornerback that will take the field for them in 2023, seeing as Trevon Diggs is currently on track to be available at the start of training camp after suffering a torn ACL last September.

The loss of Diggs was a massive blow to Dallas' defense, and Bland's excellence helped to stop the bleeding. In the months to come, however, Diggs will return to a defense that features an ascended Bland playing the opposite boundary, versus the version that was previously set (in 2023) to split reps with Jourdan Lewis in the nickel before injury rocked the depth chart.

For his part, Bland could not be more thrilled with Diggs' return.

"A lot of people aren't expecting what Tre is gonna come back with," he said of his fellow First-Team All-Pro and former NFL interceptions leader. "I know what Tre is gonna come back with, and it's gonna be something dangerous. I can't wait."

A huge reason for the instant success of both Diggs and Bland at the NFL level is attributable to a coaching staff that features Al Harris, who received a promotion this offseason to assistant head coach — while also retaining his original duties as defensive backs coach.

"He's been very key [to my development]," Bland said of Harris. "Coming in, you're not always gonna have a coach that'll give you that boost of confidence to tell you to go and get the ball — to tell you to go and do you. Having him in the room and as an assistant head coach, where everybody on the team can experience him now, has been great."

Add defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to the cast in 2024, who is also a former Super Bowl-winning defensive backs coach in Dallas, and the recipe for Bland's "dangerous" prediction is difficult to dispute.

"Right now, [Zimmer is] giving us a better understanding of the game and a better understanding of the defense," said Bland. "He's keeping everybody on the same page."

Not lacking for firepower in the defensive secondary with the return of Diggs, and with Bland also being one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league, the very obvious entendre is prepackaged — be it a message to opposing quarterbacks regarding who they try and attack on a rep-to-rep basis, or a mantra to be carried out by the Cowboys' resident ballhawks:

Take your pick.

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