Trevon Diggs is a man possessed in 2021, the likes of which would make Ed and Lorraine Warren nervous. It’s yet another week in which the Dallas Cowboys star cornerback was able to conjure an interception, this time in a blowout win over the New York Giants, stretching his streak to six INTs in the first five games of the 2021 season and just barely missing having his second multi-interception game this season — with two of Daniel Jones‘ passes having narrowly escaped being added to his vault.
Having already broken the Cowboys franchise record in Week 4 for most interceptions to begin a season, Diggs is now on pace to shatter the other longstanding record once held by legendary defensive back Everson Walls — the most interceptions in a single season by a Cowboy (11) — and he also has a shot at taking the NFL record in that category away from Hall of Fame cornerback Richard “Night Train” Lane (14). The pace he’s operating on has literally never been seen before in the NFL, and it’s due in large part to his ability to morph into a wide receiver when the ball is in the air.
That’s something he’s accustomed to doing, seeing as he was once a receiver, before being converted to cornerback at Alabama by head coach Nick Saban. It was a decision that literally brought Diggs to tears in the moment, but after speaking with his brother Stefon, he realized it was an opportunity to be a rare defensive talent.
“I was hurt at first, honestly,” Diggs explained following the Cowboys win over the Giants. “I called my brother. I was crying. He’s not the type to say, It’s ok’ … He was like, ‘Come on, it’s time to go to work.’
“That’s exactly what I did. I sucked it up and got back to work. [Saban] said that the league is looking for corners with your body type: tall. That’s pretty much my type. [My brother] was like, ‘You can do it. You played it before. You’ve just got to grind. It’s all about the grind. Whatever you really believe in, you’ve just got to work until you can achieve it.’
“I believed I could be good corner. So, I worked, worked, worked, worked, worked.”
That work ethic and belief in himself — a foreshadowing of what his young son yells to him from the stands every game — landed Diggs the nod as the Cowboys second-round pick in 2020, after the team placed a first-round grade on him but couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to select wideout CeeDee Lamb with the 17th-overall pick. In doing so, they believed they’d lose out on Diggs, but there he was, still sitting on the board when the Cowboys went on the clock at 51st-overall.
There is now no shortage of crow to ingest for teams who passed on Diggs, some having done so twice, in that draft. The 23-year-old now has nine interceptions in his first 16 career NFL starts, and entered Sunday’s contest against the Giants with more interceptions than 27 other teams before grabbing another.
“[Coach Mike McCarthy] is absolutely right,” said Diggs. “I feel like when the ball is in the air, I know I can get it. I feel like it’s my ball. I’ve just got to continue to try to make plays and practice every day.”
His belief that every ball is for him, along with his ability to close and attack it with both the ferocity and soft touch of an elite wideout, has him on track for both a Pro Bowl and an All-Pro nod. Additionally, seeing as he’s already been named NFC Defensive Player of the Month (September) and opened the month of October as NFC Defensive Player of the Week — on pace to land NFC DPOTM honors for a second consecutive month — it’s time to consider Diggs as the frontrunner for 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
And yet, for all of his defensive prowess, he does miss taking some reps at receiver, which has led him to lobby two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott with the hopes of getting a few at some point going forward.
Prescott chuckles at Diggs’ pleas, but not to the point he’s shrugging the thought off entirely.
“Diggs thinks he’s a receiver,” said Prescott with a smile. “Every week he’s asked me for reps at receiver. Relax. But when you see a catch like [his INT against the Giants], maybe we can talk again.”
Considering how lethal and creative offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has been and continues to be, don’t rule out the possibility of Diggs going full “Deion Sanders” — a nod to when Sanders played both cornerback and wideout for the Cowboys in the 1990s.
Of course, with the looming return of Michael Gallup to an already loaded receiving corps headlined by Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, plus Cedrick Wilson Jr. and Noah Brown, plus tight ends Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin, plus running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard out of the backfield, Diggs will have his work cut out for him trying to squeeze himself into a being an offensive target from Prescott — an uphill climb Sanders didn’t have in the Irvin-led receiving corps of yesteryear (one that wasn’t nearly as deep behind Irvin and a complementary receiver like Alvin Harper).
It’s just not realistic right now, but don’t rule it out for later.
“We got such a great corps out there with Gallup right there on the precipice of coming back, and I can certainly see where Diggs might see himself as a Deion-esque type player,” team exec Stephen Jones told 105.3FM the Fan on Monday. “Certainly Deion made some great plays at receiver for us in our Super Bowl run. But I don’t think we need — just yet.
“What we need him to do is make those turnovers on the defensive side of the ball. But you can obviously see he comes from a good lineage with his brother being one of the best receivers in the league. He certainly has those wide receiver ball skills.”
But considering Prescott has opted to often not throw at him in practice, Diggs figures it might be the only way to catch a pass from his quarterback. Until/unless that happens, though, the Cowboys will simply reserve Diggs for what he does best: make opposing quarterbacks regret testing his abilities as a ballhawk.
“Yeah, it’s a sight to see that’s for sure and he really could have had three tonight,” said Leighton Vander Esch of Diggs’ streak and effort against the Giants. “I told him that on the sideline and he just kind of laughed and shook his head. That kid is a baller and it just astounds me how he goes and gets it every single day. It starts in practice, and it starts with how he’s preparing day in and day out, so you’ve got to give the credit to him.
“And I know he’s going to keep continuing the success throughout the season.”
And speaking of Lamb, one of the Cowboys resident highlight-makers at receiver, he’s in just as much awe as anyone else when seeing what Diggs is doing on the field, and weekly.
“Tre has consistently proven himself, week in and week out,” said Lamb. “It’s sight to see. We kind of expect it out of him and if it don’t happen, he’s human. If it continues to happen, it’s just like wow bro, you could really take off with this.
“He’s the receiver [when the ball is thrown]. He’s a receiver transferred over to DB. Once he understands the technique as he does now and just trusting it. His ball skills are amazing.”
Diggs has 12 more games to grab at least nine more interceptions to take the NFL single-season record and/or a minimum of six more to own the Cowboys franchise record in that regard, and the odds are in his favor that he’ll finish the year with at least one of those records. That said, if he fails to secure another interception for the remainder of the year — as statistically improbable as that might be — he’s already most prolific cornerback the Cowboys have seen since Sanders or Walls before him, and he’s only five games into Year 2.
But for his part, he’s not thinking about it.
As long as opposing quarterbacks continue to throw into the light, Diggs will continue to be their poltergeist.