Is Anthony Brown going to start on the outside or will Kelvin Joseph (or maybe even Nahshon Wright) lock down the job as a rookie? If so, does Brown move back to the slot or is that still Jourdan Lewis’ job? Will Damontae Kazee be able to return to form after his injury? What about Malik Hooker? And can Donovan Wilson hold up as a full-time starter?
All of these questions, and more, have to be on the minds of Dan Quinn and Joe Whitt Jr., and the little bit of preseason play we’ve gotten thus far has done little in the way of answering any of them. With how much NFL offenses are throwing the ball these days, shoring up the secondary will be the most important part in Quinn’s quest to turn this defense around. But there are a lot of questions that need answering just a month out from the start of the regular season.
The good news? Second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs is not one of those questions. Far from it, actually.
Last year, Diggs was one of the few bright spots on defense and, honestly, on the whole team. As a second-round pick from Alabama, Diggs came in with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He started the 2019 season as a projected first-rounder but slipped out as the season progressed despite solid play. Then he joined the Cowboys, a team with a new defensive coordinator installing a brand new scheme that, as it turned out, wasn’t communicated very well by said coordinator. Diggs came into this environment under unprecedented circumstances relating to the pandemic, had zero preseason games to warm up, and was asked to be a starter right off the bat at one of the hardest positions to play as a rookie.
In fact, Diggs played every single defensive snap in each of the first three games of the year, one of the Cowboys’ few defenders to do such a thing. And while it wasn’t a perfect year by any stretch, Diggs showed that he belongs. Out of all defenders who saw 80 or more targets last year, just six players allowed a lower completion rate than the rookie, who surrendered a catch on 54.8% of all targets. He also snagged three interceptions, only 15 defenders had more than that last year, and Diggs did that as a rookie.
What’s scarier is that Diggs very easily could have had more, something he’s put an emphasis on in his training this offseason:
“I got my hands on 14 balls. I ended up with not 14 interceptions, so that’s a problem.”
“All of them,” Diggs confirmed to reporters. “I dropped a lot of them, and if I can get my hands on it, I can catch it, I feel like. All of them could have been interception opportunities. A DB doesn’t get many opportunities. You’ve got to capitalize on the ones you do get.”
By all accounts, the increased focus has been evident so far. Diggs has been a frequent star in training camp, looking very comfortable in Quinn’s scheme and making plenty of plays on the ball. The only time Diggs hasn’t looked good in camp is when he’s matched up against fellow second-year player CeeDee Lamb, who has made an equally impressive jump over the offseason. Even then, Diggs has challenged Lamb better than anyone else on the team could hope to, and it’s more a testament to how good Lamb has become than a statement about Diggs’ abilities.
First “Mojo Moment” of final public Oxnard practice begins with a Trevon Diggs pass breakup. Cowboys CB has had a strong camp. pic.twitter.com/18CdxvSpcW— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 11, 2021
Diggs is primed to become the number one cornerback this year, a designation he had thrust upon him last year almost by default. But this time around, Diggs has put in the work and had a proper offseason to prepare, and he’s looking like a player on the verge of breaking out in a big way. Dallas might not have everything figured out on the back end still, but if Diggs plays the way he has thus far in training camp he’ll be a huge help in figuring out the rest.