No cornerback in the NFL has registered more than 10 INTs in a season since Everson Walls secured 11 for the Dallas Cowboys in 1981. Trevon Diggs is currently over halfway to that pace less than a third of the way into the season. The night is still young, per se, for the second-year cornerback to push to double digits and beyond. But could he break Richard “Night Train” Lane’s NFL record of 14 interceptions in a single season?
And without the INTs, how good is Diggs?
Trevon Diggs’ interceptions
Diggs is getting the reputation for being a gambler, given his high target rate and INT rate. However, only 1 of his interceptions in 2021 has come from “gambling.” This provides some hope that maybe he can actually reach the NFL interception record.
Above are all 6 of Trevon Diggs’s interceptions through the first five weeks.
Here, it looks like the Cowboys are playing zone to the strength of the formation, while Diggs appears to be playing MEG (man everywhere he goes) to the formation’s weak side. However, when Mike Evans stems back inside to cross Diggs’ face post-snap, Diggs peers into Tom Brady. So, that would indicate that despite his pre-snap, press-man alignment, he was actually playing as the field-side corner in quarters coverage.
Of all his INTs thus far, this one might appear the most gifted of the bunch. However, Diggs’ ability to change direction and his ridiculous closing speed (which we’ll dig into later) allows his body to trigger along with his eyes as Brady releases the pass. So, although the ball was gifted, Diggs still makes an excellent play closing on the pass.
Diggs is beaten immediately on Keenan Allen’s release. He pops outside while Allen drives inside on his release before getting vertical. That closing speed we just talked about is what made this play happen.
Allen has a yard of separation at the first hash he crosses. This ball is placed perfectly on his outside shoulder, just outside of his helmet, where he could maximize YAC potential if caught. But Diggs’ “my ball” mentality and ability allow him to extend for the diving pick.
Being a ball hawk means picking your spots. Now, with a veteran QB and a savvy coordinator, maybe teams start taking advantage of Diggs’ attitude toward the sticks on third down and start running double moves his way. However, with Randy Gregory, Osa Odighizuwa, and Micah Parsons rushing the passer, there’s no guarantee quarterbacks will have time to get throws off.
The third INT is simply Diggs knowing that it’s third down, and DeVonta Smith is aligned condensed to the formation on the boundary. A speed out is very much in the realm of possibilities here. I’d assume this is a popular call for Nick Sirianni and the offense because even if Smith doesn’t fall here, Diggs grabs this. If you don’t believe me, his fifth interception proves he would most likely finish the play.
There is no way to spin the process of this play positively. This was a blown coverage if I ever saw one. Damontae Kazee’s first few drop steps here make this look like Tampa 2. It appears that Jayron Kearse is responsible for “running the pole,” as we used to see Brian Urlacher do for the Bears’ defenses. So, naturally, Diggs would be accountable for the other deep half here, right?
Well, he sure didn’t seem interested in what No. 1 was doing to that side of the field. And he never left the “rat” or “robber” area of the field, even as the post uncovered behind him flashing a neon “OPEN” sign.
But as it is so often, it appears the post was just for clearout purposes and not actually part of Sam Darnold’s progression. He must have expected Diggs to be occupying that opposite half because he makes the proper read here by throwing the ball to Robby Anderson.
Diggs freestyled this one. He went rogue. But going completely rogue isn’t something he often does.
Once again, “Third Down Diggs” is on the case, and even Sherlock Holmes would be proud of the mental processing that took place as time slowed down for Diggs here.
The route jump is just taking a shot given the down-and-distance and trying not to get lied to by the receiver. It’s the actual interception here that’s impressive. That pick is a contested catch from start to finish. Diggs has some absolute mitts on him.
He extended up and out and showed great concentration to secure it after the initial tip. Then, it just required strength to keep it out of the hands of a sturdy DJ Moore.
This is my favorite interception so far. C.J. Board has a 9.37 Relative Athletic Score and ran a 4.42 at his pro day. He’s not a slow receiver, and this was not really Diggs’ responsibility. Let’s walk through it.
The Giants are running a “Yankee” concept. It’s one of the heavily-used variations that attacks the middle of the field with a clearout post and an intermediate dig route that attacks behind the linebackers and in front of the safety that should be keyed on the post in Cover 3.
However, with the Cowboys running more match concepts in zone coverage, the free safety drives on the dig. In a perfect world, that happens sooner. The cornerback to the dig side would replace Kazee in that middle-of-field deep zone.
I say all that to say Diggs probably shouldn’t be able to make this play. But he does, and it doesn’t look difficult for him at any point.
Note: This is after he banged up his ankle.
Make no mistake — this is an underthrown football. But it was more underthrown in terms of location than actually running distance. It allowed Diggs to remain flat and undercut it. However, the closing speed and nonchalant pluck out of the air makes it look sweeter.
Hope that Trevon Diggs can break the NFL interception record
There are typically two types of players that come up with interceptions. There are ball hawks, and there are ball magnets.
Ball Hawk: A player that goes out of his way both mentally and physically to attack footballs that a rare few could see or execute physically.
Ball Magnet: A player in the right place at the right time but within the confines of the traditional scheme. Their INTs are usually more quarterback-driven than a ball hawk’s INTs would be.
Guys, Diggs hasn’t even been gifted any interceptions yet. There have been no overthrown passes when he’s in the deep third of Cover 3 and the ball shows up in his lap. There’s only been 1 tipped interception, and Diggs still made a heck of a play to come off Evans and drive on it. He’s going out and making these plays happen.
Do I think he gets to 14 or even 15, breaking the record? Absolutely not. But that’s the analytical side of my brain. It’s telling me, “Of course he won’t, you absolute dolt! Nobody’s had more than 10 since 1981!”
But the creative side of me is telling me I’ve never seen a player like Diggs. Heck, I thought he’d be a watered-down Marcus Peters or Xavien Howard in the NFL when I evaluated him coming out of Alabama!
It turns out he’s their final form.
Baiting and near misses
See, the reason Diggs might have the opportunity to keep intercepting passes is the way he plays the game. He breaks the rules of coverage and what should or should not be possible in the eyes of a processing quarterback.
The first throw to Kenny Golladay on the crosser is a prime example. His interception against the Chargers was another. However, that’s a different example in the same family.
The Golladay throw was a baiting. Diggs does this a lot. He wants quarterbacks to test what we have come to believe is “NFL open.” Sometimes, receivers will finish with a catch, but most often, his click-and-close ability mixed with his length and ball skills allow him to win at the catch point, at least with a PBU.
The interception in LA was pure athletic ability and ball skills. Diggs’ recovery speed makes me laugh at my report on him coming out that questioned that final gear. That ability to delete space is why there’s even a chance for Diggs to break the NFL interception record.
Is Trevon Diggs a good cornerback independent of the INTs?
Here’s the thing — with Diggs, you cannot separate the two. I’d say the goal of most cornerbacks is to cover their receiver to the best of their ability to prevent a catch. Diggs’ goal is to force the quarterback to throw his way so he can take the ball the other way. He’s playing receiver at the cornerback position.
That’s the reason teams won’t just stop throwing his way. It takes a lot for a QB to see a window that’s open week-in and week-out and not throw it just because No. 7 is on the opposite side. It would take pre-snap recognition of said single player before every passing play. Then, to acknowledge where his physical existence lies on the field.
The game is too fast. Not even Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Dak Prescott are accounting for that.
So Diggs may get enough opportunities to break the NFL interception record.
His 47.4% completion percentage against ranks him 18th in the entire NFL, and that’s not taking out small samples. The only players with 30+ targets that have allowed a lower completion rate are Marshon Lattimore (41.9%), Kristian Fulton (43.8%), and William Jackson III (45.7%.)
By the way, Lattimore and Fulton are allowing 8.1 yards/target, and Jackson allows 6.7 yards/target. Diggs, meanwhile, is allowing 6.5 yards/target.
Oh, and despite the ridiculous 38 targets, QBs are still better off spiking the ball than throwing it in his direction. If Diggs continues to be targeted that often, there’s a chance he pushes for the NFL interception record.
So yeah, he’s kinda good.
I missed on Trevon Diggs
I’m not talking as a draft prospect. I had a low second-round grade on him. I didn’t think his reactive athleticism would hold up at the next level against the technicians of the game. But even before the 2021 season, you could have heard me say it.
“I don’t think Trevon Diggs will ever be that lockdown No. 1 cornerback on a team.”
The ferocity in which he has proven me wrong is quite humbling. A few years back, a young chap named Rayne Dakota Prescott did the same thing to me. I went from critiquing and doubting their projection to possessing steadfast admiration for their process.
We could play “Who would you rather” all day until our faces turned blue. If one prefers the style of Jaire Alexander or Jalen Ramsey more than Diggs, there’s no problem with that.
But Diggs is on a tier of his own when it comes to his style of cornerback play. And if anybody tells you he’s been bad aside from the interceptions, simply disengage. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.