IRVINE, Calif. - There's an inherent irony in the fact the spiciest Cowboys defensive back in 2022 training camp has been DaRon Bland, his last name being the literal antithesis of what he has already morphed into over the course of his first-ever NFL offseason.
It's no exaggeration to say the rookie fifth-round pick out of Fresno State has been one of the best performers in July and now in August, delivering impact plays in his preseason debut against the Denver Broncos before going on to do the same in the subsequent two scrimmages versus the Los Angeles Chargers.
"He's been amazing throughout camp," said First-Team All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs of the first-year cornerback. "You can see that everything is starting to slow down for him and he can just play, and make the plays. He's got all the talent in the world. He's having a great camp and I'm just excited to see where he goes."
It's how Bland carries himself that's really ingratiating the 23-year-old with Diggs, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and the Cowboys locker room as a whole.
"It's how he goes about his work," Diggs said. "He doesn't say too much or talk a lot. He just goes about his work. He's a hard worker. He just really wants to do the right thing and do what he's supposed to, and he's doing that - it's showing on the practice field. He's out there making plays."
On Thursday, Bland largely participated with the first team following the absence of Jourdan Lewis (hamstring) and left a noticeable mark in practice. A former First-Team all-division talent for the Bulldogs, the 23-year-old put on a show with three pass break ups and a scrimmage-ending interception in the back left corner of the end zone - with the receiver pulling his jersey down to try and prevent the seemingly inevitable.
Bland stayed on the receiver's hip the entire route and then got his head around, boxed the receiver out and then elevated to catch the ball at its highest point before completing the process to the ground.
"That was my goal coming in – to make an impact from anywhere on the field," Bland said following Thursday's practice. "That's my mentality every day, to make a play."
The session wasn't without adversity for Bland, though. Earlier in the scrimmage, he read the eyes of Justin Herbert and put his closing speed on full display to attack a deep throw that could have resulted in an interception as opposed to just a PBU - the ball tipping from his hands into the air where Bland juggled it on the way down but couldn't reel it in.
But in the time it took him to prepare himself for the next defensive rep, he had already forgotten the drop.
"That's the mentality you have to have in this game, playing corner or defensive back at all," he said of the mental process it takes to bounce back and make the next big play. "If one play is a bad play, get over it."
That mindset has become one of his biggest takeaways in his first year under Quinn.
"Playing 100%," said Bland of Quinn's teachings. "You're going to make mistakes but keep going and play 100%."
Lastly, it's key to note that it's not only the nickel role where Bland has shined this summer (or at Fresno State before joining the Cowboys),, but also on the outside and virtually everywhere the Cowboys have placed him. The team's goal is as much to see what he can do as it is to determine if there's anything he can't, and Bland is appreciative of the varying looks.
"I always like covering the receivers, but it's fun playing both inside and outside," he said. "It's fun to get a different view."
So while his last name might not indicate it, Bland is more akin to a bottle of hot sauce - one Quinn might eventually end up putting on everything.