FRISCO, Texas — When training camp got underway this past July, things looked wildly different for both DaRon Bland, Jourdan Lewis and Donovan Wilson. Bland was coming off of a breakout season as a rookie, but as a nickel corner who stepped in following the season-ending injury to Lewis in 2022.
Lewis hadn't been medically cleared yet to participate in practice and, as such, was relegated to the PUP list (physically unable to perform) and wasn't activated until the start of the season, then starting his journey to becoming the best version of himself again.
"I feel like that's my mentality," said Lewis ahead of Super Wild Card Weekend, having taken the ball away twice over the past two weeks. "It doesn't matter what happens, out there, I'm fighting. I know I'm one of the best fighters around the league.
"Wherever that takes me, I'm ready for the situation."
Fast forward to the end of the regular season and Lewis is clearly back in prime form — also the winner of the Ed Block Courage Award — and Bland has taken the throne as the league's leader in interceptions, also setting an all-time NFL record for most pick-sixes in a single season (5).
Oh, and Bland is no longer a nickel corner, having set the aforementioned record as an outside corner following the loss of First-Team All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs to a torn ACL months ago.
In Week 18, to help the Cowboys clinch the NFC East title and the No. 2 seed in the NFC brackett of the NFL playoffs, Bland delivered his ninth interception of the season to help bury the Washington Commanders. It was his first since the Nov. 30 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, and Bland is now back on the INT horse with the playoffs being next on the menu.
"Yeah, I was telling the guys that [assistant secondary coach Al Harris] was making the joke of, 'How long has it been?'" said Bland with a smile. "So it felt good to have another one. … Everybody's starting to get on their roll.
"It's not just me. It's not just the safeties. It's not just the linebackers. It's everybody on the field."
To his point, not only has Lewis grabbed an interception (Week 17) and forced a fumble (Week 18) before then recovering it himself, but Donovan Wilson has also logged two interceptions in as many weeks ahead of the wild card matchup with the Packers.
Wilson was working his way back from injury as well to begin this season, having missed all of training camp and the preseason with a calf strain; but it appears he's also back to form.
"It's always been like that, ever since he came in 2019," said Lewis of Wilson. "We've always been going back and forth with getting turnovers. It's a good feeling to see my guy getting turnovers, too."
The secondary in Dallas is regaining their takeaway mojo ahead of Super Wild Card Weekend, and the expectation that they'll also have Stephon Gilmore (shoulder) available for the contest only increases their odds of defensive success on Sunday afternoon.
With Bland on fire this season, and with Lewis and Wilson having located their playmaker variants at the right time, there's a great chance Jordan Love will have his hands full.
"It means we've got playmakers at every single position, honestly," said Lewis. "That makes our defense more dangerous and you have to prepare for everybody, and the other team has to be all-in on their details. It's kind of hard to prepare for just about everybody on defense, especially when you have Micah and those guys eating up front.
"It's a good feeling to have with us firing on all cylinders going into the postseason."