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Last season, Dallas Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland was one of the NFL's breakout stars. After a rookie season where he came in to replace an injured Jourdan Lewis as the Cowboys' slot corner, Bland was tapped to replace an injured Trevon Diggs on the perimeter, and he shined in the role.

Bland intercepted an NFL-high nine passes and returned an NFL-record five of them for touchdowns. He was named a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro, and he finished the season fifth in NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting. Most of that probably would not have happened if Diggs, himself a former first-team All-Pro and NFL interception leader, didn't tear his ACL during a Cowboys practice in Week 3.

That injury pushed Bland into a larger-than-expected role, and he ran with it. In 2024, Bland is expected to start on the outside across from Diggs, and he is excited about both that and the way Diggs will play in his return to the field.

"A lot of people aren't expecting what Tre is gonna come back with," Bland said, via the Cowboys' official website. "I know what Tre is gonna come back with, and it's gonna be something dangerous. I can't wait."

Dallas is undergoing some significant defensive changes this offseason, with Mike Zimmer replacing the departed Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator and with players like Dorance Armstrong, Johnathan Hankins, Leighton Vander Esch, Stephon Gilmore, and Jermaine Kearse no longer on the roster. Now, Bland is being counted on as one of the best players on the unit, rather than flying under the radar as merely a possible key contributor.

"It's definitely harder to keep a low profile after last season, but I'm enjoying it," Bland said, while also noting that the increase in notoriety has not changed his offseason program. "It's all been the same. Gotta keep it the same. I always have the same expectations. It [did] improve my confidence, going into more years in this league as well. I'm going into my third year so, yeah, I'm more confident now."

It's good that Bland is not lacking for confidence, because the Cowboys will need him to play at something close to the same level as he did a year ago while Diggs works his way back up to speed and so the team can make up for the fact that it lost so many contributors on both sides of the ball this offseason.