Trevon Diggs, Jayron Kearse endorse Cowboys’ DaRon Bland as DROY
By Jerry Trotta
Cornerback is without question the Dallas Cowboys’ greatest concern going into the playoffs. With Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis done for the year, teams have exploited the side opposite Trevon Diggs. When Diggs is off his game, like he was against the Eagles, the cornerback room has been an extreme liability.
Kelvin Joseph got first dibs at replacing Brown on the perimeter. To say that experiment went up in flames would be an understatement. After a woeful performance vs Jacksonville, Joseph got benched, and Dallas rolled with budding rookie DaRon Bland, who had been covering for Lewis in the nickel, as Diggs’ running mate.
With Joseph back to having a nearly-full-time role on special teams, it appears Bland is the Cowboys’ new every-down boundary corner. Makes sense, right? At the rate Bland is intercepting passes, he’d start on most teams.
Forget being a starter, though.
With Bland now a staple of Dan Quinn’s defense, the 23-year-old’s veteran teammates are hyping him up as the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Trevon Diggs got the movement started on Twitter after Bland’s incredible interception against the Eagles, when he wrestled the pigskin away from Quez Watkins.
Cowboys stars Trevon Diggs and Jayron Kearse believe DaRon Bland deserves Defensive Rookie of the Year recognition.
We’re not going to be delusional homers and pretend Bland should win Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Jets’ Sauce Gardner, the Lions’ Aidan Hutchinson, and the Seahawks’ Tariq Woolen are the consensus favorites for the hardware.
Gardner’s currently graded as PFF’s top cornerback for the season, while Hutchinson leads all rookies in sacks (seven), to go with seven tackles for loss, 13 QB hits, two (!) interceptions, 43 pressures and a 77.0 pass rush grade. Finally, Woolen is tied for the league lead with six interceptions, and his 14 passes defended are tied for the third-most (Sauce leads the way with 16, by the way).
With all of that said, the fact Bland is even in the conversation is an accomplishment unto itself. He’s tied for the second-most interceptions with five, and he’s done it despite logging zero defensive snaps in five games early in the year. That doesn’t include Week 7 against Detroit when he played seven snaps.
Bland’s production isn’t lost on Jayron Kearse, who produced two turnovers (an INT and fumble recovery) against the Eagles. After the win, the versatile defender unleashed a powerful quote on Bland’s Defensive Rookie of the Year case.
Five picks in six starts is just obscene. Imagine if Bland had played a substantial role from the season-opener? You have to think he’d have a few more INTs on his resume. Unfortunately, projections mean nothing in regard to end-of-season awards, but Bland’s efficiency should only bolster his standing amongst voters.
Again, Bland isn’t going to win the award, but he undoubtedly deserves to be mentioned in conversations that involve Sauce, Hutchinson, and Woolen. He’s earned it, and Diggs and Kearse want him to get his flowers.