We’re continuing our countdown to the opening game of the Dallas Cowboys 2023 regular season. Each day we’ll present a new player whose jersey number represents the countdown to opening day. Today is number 26.
CB DaRon Bland
Born: 12th July 1999 (24) - Modesto, California
College: Fresno State Bulldogs
Draft: 2022, Round 5, Pick 167, Dallas Cowboys
Defensive Snaps: 744 (62%)
Tackle for Loss: 1
Defensive Stops: 14
Pass Breakup: 7
QB Rate Allowed: 86.5
DaRon Bland started life playing college football for Sacramento State in 2017. He came on to the scene during his junior year when he was named first-team All-Big Sky conference. He recorded 43 tackles, six tackles for loss, one sack, and two interceptions and eight pass breakups.
The following season was cancelled due to Covid restrictions so Bland opted to transfer out and play his final year for the Fresno State Bulldogs. He played 13 games for Fresno State and made 45 tackles with five pass breakups and two interceptions.
When Bland was drafted in the fifth round everyone felt confused by the selection. Analysts said this too high of a pick for Bland and fans didn’t feel to positive about the selection back as there were other players that could have been a better choice. How wrong that turned out to be.
Bland didn’t see real work until Week 8 after Jourdan Lewis got injured, yet he finished the season with five interceptions, which led Dallas last year and was also the second highest number of interceptions made by a rookie in the NFL. His passer rating allowed of 86.5 was also the lowest rate allowed by a starting cornerback for Dallas.
What was impressive with Bland is how he came onto the field looking prepared and proficient in his role with very little time to prepare. Whether he was keeping slot receivers in check or making important tackles downfield, he was efficient. He even proved how he could hold his own as a boundary defender when required. Without the efforts that Bland made last season, we could have seen a very different second half of the year and those struggles could have been costly in order to make the playoffs.
2023 Roster Projection:
The CB1 position is now officially locked down for the next half decade, and we all know Gilmore will lock his side of the field down opposite Trevon Diggs. This means this season we should get plenty of what Bland does best, defend the slot. With NFL teams moving to evolve the “big slot” role on offense, a player like Bland is perfectly built and has the skill set to eliminate that option. His blend of size, speed and agility has been displayed enough times last year to feel confident in what he can provide. More experience and more time practicing with the starters will only help to enhance his skills and instincts. The battle now lays with him and Lewis for that third cornerback position.
Projected 2023 Stats:
Tackle for Loss: 2
Defensive Stops: 18
Pass Breakup: 9
The Big Question:
Is DaRon Bland playing as the starting nickel cornerback this year or Jourdan Lewis? Answer in the comments.