Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs’ rehab from torn ACL ‘looks good’; team ‘fired up’ to

FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys¬†secondary is on track to receive a major boost come training camp at the end of July: the return of two-time Pro Bowler and 2021 first-team All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs.

Diggs, age 25, tore his ACL in practice prior to the Cowboys’ Week 3 game at the Arizona Cardinals last season, but Dallas likes how his rehabilitation back from the injury is progressing and could potentially see him fully return on the field come training camp at the end of July.

“It looks good, it looks good,” Cowboys assistant head coach/defensive backs coach Al Harris said Tuesday when asked if Diggs’ rehab will have him on track to be ready for training camp. “Actually, that’s just where I was at, me just watching him. [director of rehab] Britt [Brown] is doing a great job with him. As far as timeline-wise, I’ll leave that up to Britt and the strength staff to tell you guys that. For what we did today, I thought he did a good job.”

Diggs’ 18 career interceptions since entering the NFL as a second-round pick in 2020 are tied for the second-most in the league, trailing only two-time Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons’ 19 with Diggs playing 13 fewer games (60 to 47) in that span. Fellow Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland, who moved to playing outside corner in Diggs’ absence last year and ended up leading the NFL in interceptions with nine, including five returned for touchdowns (an NFL single-season record), feels the same way about Diggs’ rehab as Harris.

“A lot of people are not expecting what Tre is gonna come back with,” Bland said at the 2024 Reliant Home Run Derby, benefiting The Salvation Army, on May 1. “I know what Tre is gonna come back with. It’s going to be something dangerous. I can’t wait.”

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The danger the Dallas defensive backfield presents having Diggs and Bland, whose 14 career interceptions since entering the NFL as a fifth-round pick in 2022 lead the league, caused Harris to nearly jump for joy when talking about what the duo can do together. He has been a part of both players’ development for their entire careers, as he came to Dallas when the team hired head coach Mike McCarthy in 2020.

“Shit, I’m fired up,” Harris said when talking about having Bland and Diggs play opposite each other as All-Pro’s. “I’m sorry man. Seriously, I’m fired up. When you can get guys that you’ve groomed and coached, mentored and you see your work on tape, that’s all I can ask for as a coach. ‘Look I’m asking you to do this, I know your job is hard.’ You go out and do it, that’s all [why] I’m fired up to see those guys out there together.”

As for who will rack up more interceptions between the two former single-season leaders in that category, that will depend on which corner gets the most chances.

“Depends, which side will they throw the ball to most?” Harris said.

NFL teams are well aware of the threat Bland presents after his performance last season, something that has translated to his recognition out and about off the field.

“It’s definitely harder to keep a low profile after last season, but I’m enjoying it,” Bland said. “(I’ve been recognized) at the gas station, randomly. I got out of the car and someone said ‘Hey!'”

However, Harris isn’t worried about Bland’s newfound stardom affecting how his 24-year-old corner will handle his business on or off the field.

“No, not all because the man, take the player out of it, the man (Bland is) isn’t that type of guy,” Harris said. “He will always be able to handle success. Extremely humble young man. So you don’t have to worry about that from this guy.”

Harris was the Cowboys coach who first spotted Bland at his pro dayand they remain incredibly close to this day.

“He’s been very key [to my development],” Bland said when asked about Harris. “Coming in, you’re not always going to have a coach that’ll give you that boost of confidence to tell you to go and get the ball, to tell you to go and do you. Having him in the room and as an assistant head coach, where everybody on the team can experience him now, has been great.”

Being great is now the standard for Bland after being one of the league’s first-team All-Pro cornerbacks in 2023, an expectation he feels equipped to handle going forward.

“That’s one thing me and McCarthy have talked about: it’s kind of hard to set a bar from last season,” Bland said. “It’s going to improve confidence. I’m still growing in the league and going into my third year. I’m more confident now.”

The next goal assigned to Bland from Harris is simple, but one that will take Bland a long way in the league: consistency. Harris himself was a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback who played 14 NFL seasons, so he knows a thing or two about maintaining a quality level of play for an extended stretch. Bland was steady for most 2023, but he did have a hiccup when defending Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl wide receiver DK Metcalf in Week 12: he allowed 108 yards and two touchdowns on three catches while defending him in the first half of a 41-35 Cowboys victory.

“Seven interceptions for a touchdown would be awesome, it would be totally awesome” Harris said with a laugh. “Realistically, consistency is what we need from our outside guys, whether that’s playing it safe or making the play, just be consistent with it. … It doesn’t stop, you add on on goals you know what I mean? That’s the approach we take as corners. Whether you have four picks, nine picks or 11 picks, you just add on to that and just keep going from there.”

Getting up to speed with new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s defense

The defense Diggs, Bland and the rest of Dallas’ defensive personnel are running in 2024 will be a departure from 2023 with Dan Quinn now in Washington as the Commanders head coach and Mike Zimmer back in the defensive coordinator role with the Cowboys, a role he held for seven seasons from 2000-06.

“The biggest thing for Mike is to get the language change,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said at rookie minicamp on Friday. “This is, it’s his language. So that’s been an adjustment for everybody. So we’re working through that and all indications are we’re off to a good start there. And obviously there’s going to be some technique changes, particularly up front. So we’re doing the best we can as far as the climate that we have to operate in as far as the rules and what you can do. But, no, I think Mike’s off to an excellent start. He and the defensive staff.”

Dallas’ players have echoed that sentiment.

“Right now, [Zimmer is] giving us a better understanding of the game and a better understanding of the defense,” Bland said. “He’s keeping everybody on the same page.”

The Cowboys’ defensive backfield can be quite¬†like a library at times with both Bland and Diggs being more natural introverts as people, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t bringing the type of intensity in their play that Zimmer is known to embody.

“Playing outside, you can’t be too boastful or just be outlandish with it,” Harris said. “Because one day you could be great, but if somebody got your number, you know I mean? The more humble that we stay is great for the room, and we got all humble guys.”

With Diggs and Bland both being All-Pro-caliber cornerbacks, Zimmer couldn’t care less about their personalities as he too harbors the same delight as Harris about being able to coach Dallas’ duo of Pro Bowl outside corners.

“Anytime you have two good corners, it allows you to do a lot of other things,” Zimmer said Tuesday. “You can tilt the coverage, you can play man to man, you can double other guys. That’s an exciting part, and typically when I’ve had good corners, we play pretty good. So knock on wood, we will.”

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