FRISCO, Texas — The season is unfortunately over for Jourdan Lewis, who ends his 2022 campaign on a note that's as bittersweet as you'll find around the NFL. The veteran cornerback grabbed his first interception of the season in the early fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions but suffered a Lisfranc injury in the tackle that followed the takeaway.
The injury required surgery to repair and will take months to recover from, thrusting several young defensive backs into the immediate limelight going forward - i.e., DaRon Bland, Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright.
Coming off a career-best season for the Cowboys in 2021, it's a huge loss for defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's unit.
"He really represents all the things I love about our defense," Quinn said on Monday. "He's tough. He's smart. He's a dog-ass competitor. It's easy sometimes to say, the coaches cliche is the next man up, but there's a dude behind that injury too, and we will miss him.
"We love him. That's a hard one for us to deal with, but we certainly will."
It's a sentiment echoed loudly by head coach Mike McCarthy.
"Yeah, I mean, Jourdan Lewis, I mean, to me, I look at him as one of the keystones on this football team," McCarthy said. "He's on the Leadership Council. Just love the way he plays - Detroit proud. So, obviously, we're gonna miss him on the field but [also] his presence in locker rooms, just his professionalism, his toughness, his approach. He does everything right.
"He is a very valued member of our football team so a big injury there."
Lewis' interception arrived with the Cowboys nursing a 10-6 lead with not much time to create distance on a scrappy Lions team, his takeaway leading to a critical scoring drive by Dak Prescott and the previously struggling offense that was capped with one of Ezekiel Elliott's two touchdowns on the evening - the Cowboys going full throttle from that point forward to a 24-6 victory that included five takeaways on the afternoon.
When the Chicago Bears come calling in Week 7, it will mark the second time Bland - a rookie fifth-round pick - has been charged with stepping in and up for an injured Lewis. The latter suffered groin tightness in the pregame warmup for the Week 5 matchup against the Washington Commanders and Bland answered the bell with his first career interception on 59 defensive snaps (by far the most of his young NFL career).
And that is especially true when considering he hadn't taken a single defensive snap prior to that contest, but instead carried his momentum over from a stellar training camp into actual regular season action.
"DaRon did a nice job [in his previous defensive reps] so we can continue to build off of that," said McCarthy.
But, as mentioned, Bland isn't the only young talent wading water for their chance to get a/the nod, with Joseph and Wright licking their chops as well.
Joseph has stepped up as of late to become a key player on special teams but the former second-round pick has long been expected to eventually make the jump toward being an impact corner; and he might now see a chance to do just that, but he'll have to compete with Wright for the … right … to do so.
You'll likely see one, or both, get some reps (in rotation with?) Bland against the Bears on Sunday. Wright has been relegated to the inactives list in each of the first seven games, but that will change in the eighth contest.
"Kelvin Joseph can continue to work through [as well], and Nahshon Wright will probably have an opportunity to play this week," McCarthy added. "It's an opportunity for our young players."
Additionally, there is curiosity on if there's a chance the Cowboys move Anthony Brown from outside to the nickel - a role he's taken on before - and allowing Bland, Joseph and Wright to battle outside the hashes. McCarthy isn't giving anything away specifically, but he didn't rule it out, either.
"Obviously, [losing Lewis] changes the way we move forward into such different combinations, different personnel groups," he said.
Things will need to be mostly settled at the position opposite/near Trevon Diggs with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers waiting on the other side of the Week 9 bye.