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Training Camp | 2023

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DaRon Bland working on Year 2 jump for Cowboys: 'I've gotten better'


OXNARD, Calif. — There is rightfully plenty of talk this offseason about the addition of Stephon Gilmore and, now, the $100 million contract extension for Trevon Diggs — and their complementary style on the field thus far — but you'd be remiss to forget about DaRon Bland in when discussing the cornerback room of the Dallas Cowboys.

After all, as noted last season, Bland is indeed the new spicy.

As it stands, his rookie film looks like a season trailer for the show "Hot Ones". 

"Right now, I'm working on my mind speed," he said to end the first week of 2023 training camp.

Does this mean the game is already slowing down for him?

"A little bit more, yea," he said.

The former fifth-round pick out of Fresno State stepped in last year following the season-ending Lisfranc injury to Jourdan Lewis and delivered like an overnight package, no signature required, and went on to become the latest young talent to have a breakout season for the Cowboys. 

Playing mostly instinctually as he learned the playbook, how to read opposing the complexities of an NFL offense (pre-snap) and just how different NFL speed can be, Bland was still able to rack up a team-leading five interceptions and seven pass break ups; and he did it in only eight regular season starts.

So imagine, if you will, how much more of an impact he might be able to make in Year 2, as the game slows down for him that much more, and as he gets both hands around how to dissect offenses at the professional level. 

"I gotta think fast on the field," said Bland of the differences between his training camps as a rookie and as a second-year player. "I was going out there with some instincts [in 2022], but now I gotta go out there and know what the offense is gonna do, how they're gonna attack us and the situations — I've gotten better at it with film and everything."

Circling back to the aforementioned Gilmore and Diggs, a tandem that has the potential to be the best CB duo in the entire league if all goes according to plan, Bland finds himself in a situation that isn't entirely unlike that of offensive lineman Tyler Smith.

Smith entered the Cowboys locker room with Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, along with Jason Peters at the time, to help shrink his learning curve in ways that would make Rick Moranis jealous.

Gilmore and Diggs, along with Lewis, are doing the same for Bland.

"It's great — takes your game to another level," said the former Bulldog. "It raises your [football] IQ. They help you see things a little differently. It's been good."

It all lends to expectations for the secondary and defense as a whole to not only continue their dominant ways, but to improve upon them in 2023. 

That is precisely what Bland is working on, both as an individual looking to make a huge leap in Year 2, and as a contributor to one of the best defenses the NFL has to offer. 

"Do better than we did last year," he said of the defense's goals this coming season. "We were No. 1 in turnovers so we're trying to do that again, but we're trying to stack on [top] of those numbers." 

Bland is feeling hot, hot, hot, and the arrow on his potential is pointed due north.

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