Vikings’ Stefon Diggs’ Four-Game, 419-yard Breakout Rookie Performance

The Situation: Chiefs at Vikings, tied at 0-0, 9:04 left in the 1st, 2nd and 10 at MIN 46

The Route: Out

The Matchup: Chiefs are in man coverage with a five-man blitz; Sean Smith matches up against Diggs in press.

The Play:

Broadcast:

All-22:

The Route Running: One of the knocks against Diggs coming out of college was that he lacked the size and strength to handle press coverage—Sean Smith thus plays Diggs in press coverage.  Diggs’ beats the press by angling inside the numbers and turning upfield, forcing Sean Smith to lean in and turns his hips inside to play any inside route.

As soon as Smith leans in, Diggs cuts hard to the outside, forcing Smith to turn his hips over 180 degrees against his inside momentum.  The cut is so hard that it causes Sean Smith to fall over—but for Diggs, the cut is so easy that he doesn’t even lose speed on his route, leaving Diggs wide open for the catch near the sideline.

After the Catch:  Immediately after the catch, Diggs secures the ball and cuts 90 degrees upfield simultaneously without losing speed.  With two defenders closing in on him, Diggs flashes his outstanding stop-and-go speed, making Derrick Johnson the second defender to fall over on this route and picking up a couple extra yards.


The Situation: Vikings at Lions, Lions up 14-3, 15:00 left in the 2nd, 3rd and 3 at MIN 34

The Route: Shallow cross

The Matchup:Lions are in Cover 1 press man with a five-man blitz (with Mike stunting a blitz before droping into coverage underneath); Rashean Mathis matches up against Diggs.

The Play:

Broadcast:

All-22:

Pre-Snap Reads:

On third and short, the defense is playing press coverage with ten men on the line prior to the snap.  Bridgewater puts TE Kyle Rudolph in motion, and FS Isa Abdul-Quddus follows him across the box, thereby confirming the man coverage look.

The Vikings’ playcall puts Wallace and Rudolph on deep out routes and Jarius Wright on a deep post route.  The call is designed to clear the field underneath on the right side with the shallow crossing route designed to get Diggs open against man.

The Route Running:

Diggs releases fast, faking hard left on his first step and forcing Mathis to turn his hips to defend the flat—but instead of cuting out, Diggs uses that first step to cut hard inside on the cross, and Mathis can’t keep up after turning his hips.  The end result is Diggs is wide open from the moment the ball is snapped.  Once Diggs begins to cross the underneath coverage, Bridgewater leads Diggs across and hits him in stride.  From there, Diggs picks up an easy 25+ yards after the catch simply by wheeling up the sideline, outrunning the Lions’ defense.

The Takeaway: Don’t play press man on Stefon Diggs.


The Situation: Vikings at Lions, Vikings up 28-17, 6:30 left in the 4th, 2nd and 10 at MIN 23

The Route: Post

The Matchup: Lions are in Cover 1 man running an 8-man run blitz as the Vikings try to drain the clock with Adrian Peterson. Rashean Mathis again matches up against Diggs in press.

The Play:

Broadcast:

All-22:

The Jam: This time Mathis does a good job getting a hand up on Diggs and preventing the outside route.  Diggs isn’t afraid to fight the jam and swat Mathis’ hands away before cutting hard 90 degrees without losing speed.  It’s enough to get Diggs wide open—again—as you can see from the end zone angle.

Broadcast:

The Catch: The throw is slightly high and behind Diggs’ route, so Diggs has to slow down and jump up to secure the catch.  Mathis hits Diggs hard as he comes down, but Diggs has no trouble holding onto the ball.


The Situation: Vikings at Lions, Lions up 17-15, 11:14 left in the 3rd, 2nd and 12 at DET 49

The Route: Hook

The Matchup: Lions are in Cover 3 zone with the Mike blitzing up the A-gap. Rashean Mathis again matches up high against Diggs.

The Play:

Broadcast:

All-22:

The Release: Diggs releases immediately after the snap and takes four paces upfield at full speed, baiting Mathis into playing over to protect a deep route.  Diggs’ quick release and speed here is essential, as Lions’ defensive end Darryl Tapp goes unblocked and hits Bridgewater about one-and-a-half seconds after the snap.

The Route Running: Too often, all we hear about wide receivers is their straight-line, sprinting, 40-yard-dash speed.  We focus so much on the zero-to-sixty speed that we overlook how important the sixty-to-zero stopping power is.  This hook route is all about Diggs’ stopping power.

After his first four steps, Diggs takes one long fifth stride to stop and turn back to catch the ball that Bridgewater throws as he is hit.  Diggs’ sudden halt catches Mathis off-balance, and Diggs has a comfortable three yards to play with after the catch thanks to his quick stop.

After the Catch: Diggs curls upfield with two yards between him and the first down marker.  Diggs stutter steps then lowers his shoulder to drive through the two defenders, picking up a few extra yards and the first down.

The Takeaway: Diggs doesn’t just have go speed; he has stop-and-go speed, which opens up the hitch, curl, hook and comeback routes on the route tree.


A Few Other Takeaways:

  • Diggs has a tremendous knack for making defenders miss in space:
  • Diggs has no problem making and holding on to contested catches:
  • Even on the plays where Diggs doesn’t get the ball, he’s often wide open:

You get the idea.



 

So is Stefon Diggs for real?  Is he already, as ProFootballFocus claims, a top-ten NFL receiver? Is he going to keep up his current 100+ yards per game pace?

If you’ve watched the tape, you already have your answer.