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CB DaRon Bland leapfrogs competition to replace Jourdan Lewis

The Cowboys rookie corner was chosen over Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright for a primary defensive role.

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Cowboys will miss the services of veteran cornerback Jourdan Lewis for the rest of this year, losing him to a foot injury last Sunday. But despite having two more experienced and highly-drafted options from their 2021 draft class, Dallas is going with fifth-round rookie DaRon Bland to fill Lewis’ role as one of the top three cornerbacks.

Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright, second and third-round picks from 2021, are both healthy and on the 53-man roster. But while Joseph’s barely seen the field except on special teams, and Wright has yet to even dress for a game, it’s Bland who’s been the next man up behind Lewis, Trevon Diggs, and Anthony Brown in the CB rotation.

That trend will continue now with Lewis’ season over. While all three of the young CB prospects are expected to be active, Bland has been running with the starting defense in practice.

Thankfully, Bland already got his feet wet in Week 5 when Lewis sat out with a groin issue against Washington. The rookie was in on 80% of the defensive snaps for that game, grading well in coverage and getting an interception in the decisive victory.

This stunning rise for Bland started back in the summer. While Joseph and Wright brought experience and considerably greater draft pedigree to the competition, Bland outshined them on the field and forced his way up the depth chart.

Dallas’ cornerback position will be getting plenty of attention this offseason. Anthony Brown has an expiring contract and Jourdan Lewis could fetch $5 million as a salary cap casualty. It’s already been suggested that a youth movement will take full effect in 2023.

But where previous expectations had Joseph and Wright moving into those key roles, now it appears both are trailing this surprising late-round rookie. If either of them hopes to still improve their stock in 2022, it may now have to come at Brown’s expense.

While nobody’s happy about how it happened, this injury to Lewis creates more opportunities to see all of these young corners in action. It will allow the Cowboys to see what they really have in this stable and who, if any, can be reliable running mates with Trevon Diggs for the next few years.

So far, Bland’s given no reason to think he won’t rise to the challenge. Just getting to this point so quickly is a tremendous accomplishment for the Fresno State product. He’s already defied the odds.

But now, with more exposure, opponents will be better able to figure out Bland’s weaknesses and run their plays accordingly. And while he looked good against Carson Wentz and the generally dysfunctional Commanders, other teams on the Cowboys’ remaining schedule won’t be so kind.

The loss of Jourdan Lewis shouldn’t be easily dismissed. Aside from solid work in coverage, he’s been a standout in run support as a corner and has always had a penchant for making big plays. While not a star like Diggs or Micah Parsons, he’s been a contributor to Dallas’ defensive success and leaves man-size shoes to fill.

DaRon Bland has already handled the competition on his own roster. Hopefully, he’ll keep that going against opposing receivers in his new significant role.

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