Cowboys’ Al Harris ‘fired up’ to unleash Diggs, Bland as full-time starting CB duo

Cowboys’ Al Harris ‘fired up’ to unleash Diggs, Bland as full-time starting CB duo

Trevon Diggs led the NFL in interceptions in 2021. Last year, DaRon Bland set a new league record for most pick-sixes in a season.

The Cowboys’ presumptive starters at cornerback pose a significant challenge for opposing quarterbacks. But while each man has enjoyed an All-Pro season individually, packaging them together- on the field at the same time- is still a relatively new proposition.

It may be hard to believe given their respective successes, but there have been just 16 contests at all (postseason included) in which Diggs and Bland both took defensive snaps. They’ve started only ten total games together, and Bland played the nickel in every single one.

So when Cowboys defensive backs coach Al Harris was asked about trotting both of them out onto the field as his starting outside-CB tandem in 2024, the former two-time Pro Bowler lost his composure just long enough to drop a NSFW bomb to begin his answer.

“[Expletive], I’m fired up,” he beamed.

Harris notched 21 interceptions over his 14-year pro career. The fact that both Diggs and Bland are within realistic reach of topping his total this season- in their fifth and third years, respectively- is just a testament to the fact that, even at 49, Harris can still teach the gift of grab.

“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,” he told reporters at The Star in Frisco this week.

“It’s, ‘Hey, look, I’m asking you to do this. I know your job is hard. Go out and do it.’ I’m fired up to see those guys out there together.”

It’s been a while since Diggs was out there at all. When the Cowboys’ Week 1 date in Cleveland finally rolls around, it will have been 357 days since his last appearance in a game. The ACL tear he suffered in practice last Sept. 21 has kept him sidelined ever since, but Harris promises the 25-year-old “looks good” in his rehab work.

As for Bland, Harris knows the fifth-round draft pick isn’t the league’s best-kept secret anymore. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have room to improve even further.

Seven interceptions for a touchdown would be awesome,” he joked.

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In truth, Harris expects the Fresno State product to simply work on his consistency.

“Whether that’s playing it safe or making a play, just be consistent with it.”

He vows that won’t be a problem for Bland. Despite breaking a gaudy 30-year-old pick-six record last season, Bland, at least according to Harris, hasn’t changed a bit.

“Not at all. The man- you know, take the player out- the man isn’t that type of guy. He’ll always be able to handle success. He’s an extremely humble young man.”

Bland and Diggs both exude the quiet-yet-extreme confidence that also marked Harris as a player. It’s a trait that can be found running through the rest of the CB room, too, from longtime Cowboys stalwart Jourdan Lewis to second-year man Eric Scott Jr. and even (so far) to incoming rookie Caelen Carson.

That’s the way Harris likes his charges.

“One day, you could be great,” Harris cautions, “but there’s somebody who’s got your number.”

So now Harris is looking for each of his corners to take their game to the next level and boost their own numbers, even if they don’t come right out and announce they’re going to do it.

“Don’t stay. It doesn’t stop. You add on goals. That’s the approach that we take, as far as corners,” he explained. “So whether you have four picks, nine picks, 11 picks, you add on to that and you just keep rolling from there.

As for which one of his starters- Diggs or Bland- will have more success in 2024, Harris isn’t picking sides.

“That just depends on which side they throw the ball to the most.”

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire