Last season, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs led the NFL with 11 interceptions, tied for the most in a season in Cowboys history with Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist Everson Walls' 11 in 1981. But the 2021 first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection played a boom-or-bust brand of coverage: his 1,016 passing yards allowed were the most in the NFL last season, and he was targeted 96 times, the sixth-most in the NFL, according to PFF.
Through 11 games this season, Diggs only has three interceptions, but he's been targeted a lot less, 55 times (tied for 25th-most in the NFL), and has allowed 485 yards in coverage, the 14th-most in the NFL. Diggs is on pace for much better end-of-season totals in terms of opponent targets and yards allowed in Year 2 under Quinn, a sign of respect, according to his defensive coordinator.
"If the ball comes my way, I'm going to make the play, but I'm not going to chase it," Diggs said Friday, via Dallas Cowboys.com. "It's not worth it."
Trevon Diggs (last two seasons)
|2021||2022 (on pace for)|
Receiving Yards Allowed
* Most in NFL
That improvement and discipline was put on display in Week 11 in the Cowboys' 40-3 win at the Minnesota Vikings when Diggs shadowed wide receiver Justin Jefferson, whose 1,232 receiving yards ranks second in the league this season and whose 81 catches rank third in the NFL this season. Jefferson had season-lows in targets (five), catches (three) and a career-low in receiving yards (14) against the Cowboys' third-year cornerback.
"I was real proud of him [Diggs] for that game because the game prior I think [Justin] Jefferson had 10 catches," Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said Monday. "Just one of those games [against the Buffalo Bills] where he's [Jefferson] hard to stop and the ball, when it looked like a pass that was well defended, he caught it. For Trevon to say, 'I want that matchup, where am I going to go and find him in the right spot?', there's a lot that goes into that because that affects the other players, too. I thought the communication from [cornerback DaRon] Bland to Tre to others was a big piece of it, too. Over the past couple of weeks, things you thought wouldn't show up would be run support. Where he's [Diggs] outside and turned those plays back inside. ... Some of his game doesn't show up on the stat sheet right now in terms of the interceptions, but he's playing better today than he was a year ago today. Our defense is playing better."
The numbers back up Quinn's claims, as this year's Cowboys are the No. 2 scoring defense and top passing defense in the NFL after ranking outside the top 10 in scoring and near the bottom of the league in pass defense through 11 games a year ago.
Cowboys defense through 11 games (last two seasons)
Total YPG Allowed
Pass YPG Allowed
Naturally, Diggs has come to one conclusion about his impact on the Cowboys' vaunted defense from the cornerback spot as his development has continued to trend upward: he's the best at the position in the NFL.
"I just would never put another corner in front of me,'' Diggs said. "I wouldn't say another corner is better than me.''
The ultimate compliment to Diggs' continued growth is that teams have mostly given up throwing to his side of the field. Dallas' starting cornerback opposite him, Anthony Brown, is the league's most targeted player in coverage with 74 targets.
"With his ability to stay connected to a guy, it just makes it hard for them [offenses] to complete the balls that go over to his side," Quinn said of Diggs. "When you do make a mistake, he has the ball skills to make you pay. There may be some games where teams don't want to mess with that challenge, so they go to a different side or a different concept. As the season progresses, there will be different matchups that we'll go through, but he is really on it in terms of his game right now and where he's at with the ability to travel or not depending on who the opponents are. That's a real factor for us, too."
If opposing quarterbacks can no longer factor in half of the field when facing Diggs and the Cowboys, 2022 may be the year that their defense carries them to their deepest playoff run since 1995.