The Cowboy’s defensive back has recorded seven interceptions during the team’s first six games, which includes at least one catch in every game. How long will he be able to maintain this pace?
Is the person who owns the Trevon Diggs Defensive Players of the Year award ticket please visit our front desk?
I’m not joking. If you’ve got that ticket, please send me a photo. The second-year corner is far from being a star rookie and was rated as a +15000 or more odds-on to win winning the Defensive Players of the Year Award. Six weeks into his season, and he’s on Myles Garrett’s trail at +450. This is the chance to win the game of an entire lifetime.
Diggs is mentioned in the conversation due to his early-season performance, which has been almost unheard of. Diggs has recorded seven interceptions across six games and has scored at the very least one pick in every game. The only players Barry Wilburn, Brian Russell, and former Cowboys head coach Tom Landry have ever started the season with an intercept during their first six games. No player has ever done this for seven games. If he scores one in the game against his fellow Vikings during Week 8 (the Cowboys have a bye in Week 7), Diggs will stand by himself among the history books. Diggs also holds the record for the most interceptions (seven) during six games of the Super Bowl era with Rod Woodson. It’s a great group to be sharing.
This kind of performance usually comes in the middle of out of the blue, and this is especially relevant for the former second-round draft pick. Diggs didn’t get an interception until the 8th week of his rookie season, when he picked off the quarterback of the game, Carson Wentz, twice. He finished the season with three interceptions, all against the Eagles, and was mostly an unreliable report card from the defensive coaching team. In the offseason, the Cowboys changed their defensive coordinators and also drafted two day-two cornerbacks. This placed Diggs as a likely but untested starter in training camp.
Then, the blast came.
With this incredible production rate within such a short amount of time, the most important concerns are obvious What can Diggs do it? How long will this last? I think I’ve got answers to both.
If we first cut the interceptions of Diggs, we find something pretty obvious right from the start. The fact is that it requires the best of skills and some luck to get seven interceptions in just six games. For instance, this intercept in the game against the Panthers on third-and-short is a great instance of situational awareness, the ability to be aggressive, as well as ball ability. This is a top-quality play.
Similar characteristics–quick recognition and rapid closing speed were evident in this intercept against the Eagles. However, it’s likely that it will not be an intercept in the event that Philly wideout DeVonta Smith does not slip and fall.
The same is true for this throw. Diggs will likely concede a short pass to Kendrick Bourne, assuming Mac Jones delivers an accurate throw. Also, a solid tackle to force a third and long is an objectively good move, and a successful catch isn’t an injury to Diggs. The only thing that happens is an inexact pass and a shrewd bounce, which leads to another interception on his statistics.
We can watch all the above converge when he makes his debut interception for the year, A screen pass that was dropped for Leonard Fournette. Diggs has great awareness and is in a position to tackle the ball well and slam the play; however, the final interception is the result of a chance bounce.
The fact is that the four picks he picked are, at a minimum, due to luck. It’s important to observe the picks laid out, one following the next, as they serve to remind us that interceptions are usually caused by a mix of skill and luck. You could make a decent play, then get lucky, and then suddenly you’ll be able to make the most effective play defenders could ever make the turnover.
With this understanding with this in mind, let’s view Diggs’s other interceptions and gain a better understanding of the way the player is performing this year. We can also see how unlikely this pattern of poor ball production will not continue.
This is a play that requires lots of skill. So much ability, in fact, that during the broadcast call, Tony Romo said, “You don’t intercept these passes!”
He’s right. It’s an over-route, a method that was used, according to Sports Info Solutions’ charting for the 2020 season. It was intercepted only once.
It’s impossible to intercept a man-in-man coverage since the corner is usually in front of the receiver. The quarterback can guide the receiver through ball placement, placing the pass out of range of the defense’s back. If the defender is able to mug the receiver in an area of the field, the quarterback isn’t likely to throw the ball at all.
Diggs is determined to get the attention of Keenan Allen on the field of play and take over the field. However, Allen is among the top craftsmen in the league and creates plenty of space in the field. If you stop the video at the moment when Allen begins to make his way across the field, you’d consider this a victory to the receiver.
However, Diggs’s speed makes up his losses in the end zone and lets him catch a throw to Justin Herbert that the young quarterback could return in the event that he was able to. With speed at that Herbert throws the ball, as well as the reality that it is a perfect pass to Allen’s body, it’s shocking to Herbert and to Romo as well as to us that Diggs could not only be able to cut through the line and move into an ideal position to make the throw, but also that he was able to use his ability to control his body, mind, and hands to get the catch.
Diggs’s ball skills are legitimate and can assist him in converting breakups in passes into interceptions at a high rate. Keep in mind that some extremely talented cornerbacks can deter targets with their tight coverage and thwart passes with strength and length; however, they don’t possess the ball skills required to catch interceptions. They are players like Tampa Bay corner Carlton Davis (46 career breakups in passes and 6 career interceptions) as well as Diggs’s counterpart who played in Dallas, Miami corner Byron Jones (52 career PBUs, with four career INTs), who are examples of this. Both are about similar in size to Diggs and are able to excel in similar positions, including man coverage deep third zones, lined up to the line of scrimmage, and both are excellent athletes as well. However, neither of them initially committed to Alabama as a wide receiver as Diggs did. As Diggs admitted this week, he wept at the time Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban switched him from cornerback to wide receiver. But this time, the change has helped him become one of the top young ball hawks currently in the league.
We can see the wide receiver’s talents in this catch during the match against the Giants. Diggs is in a position where there is no separation. However, the defender is flying stride for stride with the receiver CJ Board. His eyes are focused on the ball, with a speedy trajectory by the quarterback Mike Glennon, who is taking over for accident-prone Daniel Jones.
Most cornerbacks don’t focus on the ball in this way; however, fewer can maintain their speed while following the ball. This is fundamentally a wide receiver ability. To add a final cherry on top of the cake, Diggs first plays jockeying for position using the Board while tracking the ball more accurately and squeezing him out of the point of catch before rising and catching the ball with his extension. A lot of corners attempt to catch balls in the manner that they’re returning punts, but Diggs is at ease with the hands of his opponent, length, and tracking to catch the ball up in the air, just like an actual wideout.
Diggs has spoken of the advantages his wide receiver experience can provide him in making huge plays in this particular play to take on the Panthers. This is a completely absurd play. Diggs is the one who plays the deep half of what appears to be a Tampa 2 coverage shell. Diggs simply chooses not to be there but rather to wait on the side of the field to find an avenue to cross the field from the opposite side of the line. At most, an educated guess. Diggs makes the right guess.
It’s not something you would instruct a cornerback to run this route, but as Diggs declared after the game, “They’ve got to run their route to this depth, so I try to study that and just try to think, ‘What would the offensive coordinator be thinking?'” Although Diggs’s receiver background might be more apparent in a play similar to that one against the Giants, however, it is important equally, if not more, in this case. With his experience in every aspect of football, Diggs understands how zone coverage attempts to adapt to the distribution of routes and how to route distributions attempt to alter the coverage spaces. He understands the feints, the counterfeits, as well as the give and takes. On this particular play — a third-and-5 with an isolated receiver with a split close to the formation–hoping that a crossing route will develop in the middle of the stick and then the first layer of defense in the zone is logical. However, it’s a bit of courage to go without the free-running Terrace Marshall Jr. and wait for that crosser to appear, but in this instance, Diggs was rewarded.
Diggs has been delivering for the Cowboys, who rely on Diggs to be their primary outside corner. His abilities are in the record-setting interceptions he has made, even those with easy bounces. However, plays like this cannot be replicated or sustained. They are all-or-nothing scenarios that, even without the Randy Gregory pressure or against a better quarterback, aren’t going to be able to fall into Diggs’s path as easily. Diggs’s ball performance, just like the ball production of the majority of cornerbacks with high intercept rates (think Asante Samuel Sr. or Marcus Peters), is determined by the level of aggression. Aggressiveness can cause burns.
It is possible to take, as an example, the passes Diggs made in the game against New York Giants rookie wideout Kadarius Toney. Similar to the play that he took with Keenan, Allen Diggs is unable to make it across the defensive line. He then gets into the path and attempts to avoid the route of crossing. He’s eaten more than he’s chewed against a player such as Toney, who is top-shelf stop-start abilities. Instead of taking over the route, Toney breaks off and runs toward the sideline, and Diggs is forced to give up an explosive pass. This is the very first play in the 3rd quarter. The play was specifically designed to exploit Diggs’s aggressiveness.
Allen has also gotten his revenge on Diggs. This time, he took revenge by striking him off-coverage. In spite of his power, Diggs doesn’t have an elite shift-of-direction. He swivels his hips in the beginning, unsure that Allen will let to the side. He’s unable to explode as Allen moves in the opposite direction, allowing an important explosive play in a tight game.
Of course, an important way to target the player who loves to take jump routes is to use two moves. Following the play-by-play pick-six, Diggs surrendered a 75-yard touchdown to Kendrick Bourne that put the Patriots back on top when he slowed down on an out-breaking run that looked exactly like the one he took in his DeVonta Smith interception until Bourne switched on the jets upfield.
The truth of the matter it’s that Diggs was in a great position to rebound, making use of his speedy long stride and ball tracking to ball. He’s stride-for stride with Bourne and, while playing outside and not having an inside leverage position, it’s also in a position to play on the ball. He slows down and cuts the line, expecting Deep safety Damontae Kazee to complete his job, spot the ball, and then collide against the receiver. Kazee sniffs, then Diggs isn’t in the right position to play.
Although Diggs isn’t completely blamed for this incident, however, it shouldn’t surprise the fact that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels gave him a double-move and challenged him to defend it. The Cowboys ought to have won this game; however, Diggs’s impulsiveness could make it easier for opponents to take on the defense with deceit. The next time around, a quicker player than Bourne and a more powerful quarterback over Jones could make this look a lot more difficult for Diggs.
Diggs’s abrasive style of play, when paired with his top-of-the-line athleticism and ball skills, will continue to result in passes that break up and interceptions for Diggs. His inexperienced press technique and lack of a great change of direction will keep him from completing passes. Cornerback is an incredibly difficult position to play. It’s the second toughest position on the field, second only to quarterbacks, in my opinion. Playing at this level requires risks as well as exchanges and guesses. Diggs, as well as the Cowboys, might have had some of the most successful chances to turn the ball over in the season, but it’s not just luck. It’s a technical ability, sure; physical strength, sure; however, it’s there is also a conscious choice to be a feast-or-famine game. This season, we’ve had lots of feasts.
Famine is on the way. It might not suffice to take Diggs off the defensive player of the year debate. However, Diggs is likely to give up more targets and receptions–especially in the deep position–than he has done so far. It’s a given. However, if he continues to feast–creating short fields and swift field position changes that result in high-quality interceptions, the Cowboys will be able to endure some more feasting. Diggs is among the best playmakers in the league on defense as well as his Cowboys defense isn’t designed to play football that is bend-and-split. They require a player, and with Diggs, they’ve apparently discovered one.