The Problem with Diggs

I’m sure most have read this but it tells a lot about Diggs performance level.
ALLEN PARK – Quandre Diggs was a good player once upon a time, a hard hitter who always performed bigger than his frame. But he just has not been that guy this year.

Maybe that’s hard to hear after Detroit traded him to Seattle on Tuesday, given his popularity in this town. But it’s true. Pop in the tape from last week’s loss against Minnesota, and you won’t have to wait long to see Exhibit A. He was the guy beat by Adam Thielen for the Vikings’ first touchdown. Yes, Thielen is an awesome receiver. Yes, Kirk Cousins made a terrific throw. But Diggs still should have made the play. Instead, he got too shallow and just didn’t have the speed to recover. Not this year anyway.

This is the sort of thing the Lions have seen from Diggs all year. He’s just been a step slow, going all the way back to spring ball and then throughout training camp. And he just hasn’t been the same guy in five games this season.

What exactly has he done? He has no interceptions, no forced fumbles, no tackles for loss, no real plays of any kind at all. He hasn’t even been credited with a pass defended. He does have 20 tackles, but has also missed six according to ProFootballFocus. He’s one of the least efficient tacklers in the league.

Overall, he ranks 61st at his position according to PFF.

That’s last among Detroit’s safeties.

Diggs wasn’t covering that well this year, and wasn’t tackling either. Throw in his 5-foot-9 frame, and the Lions – who prize versatility more than just about anything in this scheme – grew frustrated with his limited role, deploying him mostly as a robber safety.

Then when he was sidelined for most of the Kansas City game, and all of the Green Bay game. And you know what? Detroit’s back end didn’t miss a beat.

Week 3: Eagles vs. Lions

Why the Detroit Lions traded Quandre Diggs

The Lions dealt Diggs for a fifth-round pick on Wednesday.

Rookie Will Harris and veteran Tavon Wilson both played season-high snap counts in those games while spelling Diggs, and they played well. In fact, the Lions didn’t really see any drop off there at all. They held Patrick Mahomes to his worst game of the season – no touchdowns at all, actually – and then held Aaron Rodgers to 13 points in 50 minutes before a late, controversial collapse in Green Bay.

The Lions view Wilson as one of their best in-the-box players, and his run defense is probably the best of any player at the position right now. According to PFF, he’s been the 40th-best safety in the league this season. Not bad for a bench guy.

Harris, the rookie out of Boston College, is right in front of him at 39th. And no one stands to benefit more from this change than him.

Detroit raves about his versatility because of his size. At 6-foot-1, he can just get to balls that Diggs can’t, and can cover players that Diggs can’t. That includes tight ends.

With Diggs on the field, Detroit was often forced to use Tracy Walker to mark tight ends, even though Walker is at his best when he drops into coverage. Diggs just didn’t have the length for the job. But Harris does, and that should free up Walker to do more of what he does best.

This move will be painful for the locker room, but the Lions are betting on their youth, rolling with a safety tandem that pairs this year’s third-round pick with last year’s, and a bunch of Wilson mixed in for run support.

“Will obviously played a lot of football for us here through Kansas City and Green Bay, and those are two really, really difficult quarterbacks to play against,” coach Matt Patricia said before practice on Wednesday. "I think he did a really job of understanding the roles that we needed him, and how we needed him to play. Certainly, in the back end, those guys can have different assignments based on maybe the other team’s personnel, and I think he did a good job of kind of taking all of that in and understanding what he was going to have to do.

“Just his work ethic, the way he approaches, the way he’s been consistent has allowed him to improve through the course of the season. He has a long way to go and he has a lot of work to do, but he also I think has a skill-set that we haven’t really tapped into yet, too. There are some other things that I think he can do to help us.”

The Lions value what Diggs gave them over the years, but with his play in decline and his contract set to balloon next year, it’s not a surprise to see Detroit move on while it could still get something in return. It got a fifth-round pick from Seattle – while also sending the Seahawks a seventh-rounder in 2021 – and that was attractive to a team without much draft capital.

That’s more ammo for the Lions to make a move before Tuesday’s trade deadline, or adds another resource to their draft war chest next spring.

Diggs’ departure was a gut punch in some corners of that locker room – a locker room that voted Diggs a captain just two months ago – and his veteran savvy will be missed. But with Walker looking good at free safety this season – he ranks 20th among all safeties, per PFF – and the defense carrying on just fine while Diggs sat on the bench with a hamstring injury, Detroit made the calculation that the time to pull the rip cord on a beloved player was now.

It might be going young at the position, but it likes its chances.

“I would say that’s probably the biggest challenge for us," Patricia said. "Especially as we go through the season and we’re starting to see different looks or multiple looks from teams, and especially good quarterbacks and good offensive schemes, just (losing) the experience part of it. Those guys are going to have to catch up on that stuff really quickly.

"The good thing for us is Tracy played in a lot of critical situations last year. He played in those maybe situations that you don’t have an opportunity during the game to talk about, they happen, and you have to react to them. His ability to be able to communicate with the lesser experienced guys that are on the field at that time, and certainly Tavon is someone that has great experience playing this game and can see some those situations happen pretty quick. We’ll rely on those guys, and we’re just going to have to keep coaching to make sure that we put them in as many of those situations as possible during practice and be alert and aware for those to come up.”

View Comments89


great read, thanks for the post.

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Thanks for posting. I am a Diggs fan, but this trade woke me up. I haven’t gone back and done an extensive game analysis on the team yet, but the little bit I went back and spot checked on Diggs wasn’t what I remember about the guy. Diggs has always been limited in what you can do with him, but at least you could count on getting good production out of the things he could do well. It seems like it became spotty at best this season, so the staff decided it was time to move on.

It will still be considered a hell of a pick by Mayhew in my book. And moving him to safety was a great coaching decision.


Yeah, like I said, they resigned Diggs, he hasn’t played as well and feel they have viable replacements, so they got out from under his contract. The NFL is a business and there’s always someone waiting to take your job (whether they’re trying to or not).
Fans always get so mad if a player demands more money when they’ve signed a contract and still ask for more…and this is the flip-side to that, had Diggs not asked for as much, quite possibly he wouldn’t have been traded and kept as depth. You kind of cut your own throat sometimes demanding the biggest contract you can get.

Excellent OP
I’ve always said, the more money you make, the bigger the target on your back
Negotiating hard when you have leverage can whipsaw if that leverage dissipates

The thing I think is weirdest about all this is that nobody, I mean nobody, said a word about Diggs play before the trade. Not here. Not on twitter. Not in any articles by the beat guys. Not a word written.

Now were being told a story about how he wasn’t that great.

Okay. Maybe that is simply the undiscovered truth to us, and something the organization knew about. Its possible. I am not one to go evaluate safeties with the all 22.

I just think its strange.


You nailed it. I know I was really surprised and upset. I had no idea he wasn’t really playing that well and I suspect many fans didn’t either.

I just hope Will Harris plays well so I feel better about the trade

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And that is why the players have learned to take the signing bonuses and guaranteed money and have team-friendly contracts.

Truth…He was probably being nickel and dimed , more the guy that was gnawing at the rope then the guy who we actually blamed here for the rope being snapped .

We know our defense hasn’t played up to where any of us want to see it, and the Vikings just dropped 42 on us. So from that standpoint, it shouldn’t be “surprising.” Its not like we’ve got a top 10 defense and suddenly we’re hearing that Diggs isn’t performing well. I think its just one of those cases where Diggs poor plays kind of just went under the radar while watching it live. I was shocked when we traded him and thought it was a dumb move. But then I took a little time (not alot) to go back and watch him in various situations. The truth is…he really wasn’t playing well. Whether we knew it or not is kind of irrelevant to the bigger picture.

I always knew that Diggs was limited physically, but thought his strengths were strong enough to be worth the hassle. It appears that right now it isn’t. So what do you do? Do you just sit around and hope it gets better, or do you make a move?

I think about this at work all the time, particularly when I’ve changed jobs. I just want to fit into the normal payscale for my position. If your normal payscale isn’t enough for me, that means I need to move to a company who fits my requirements. I was with a company where I knew exactly what everyone made, all the way down to the bonuses. As we started slowing down and needed to unload some people, I watched the company systematically purge the highest salaries first, regardless of skill. The “outliers” in pay who have leveraged circumstances into a higher than normal salary for the company…all shown the door to begin the purge. BUT, some people live their lives like that…and its okay. They would rather be “overpaid” and keep job hopping. For me I like a certain amount of stability.

As far as football is concerned, I think many players do what they have to do. Their careers are short and the contracts aren’t guaranteed. But I still think that as free agency opens each year, you see players making big mistakes by taking the highest offer with chit teams and contract structure that all but assures they’ll never see the back end of the deal. And many are going into team situations where they may not see a 3rd contract because they are going to look so bad…and they are also throwing away post career opportunities. One thing players don’t seem to account for is what happens after they retire if they played better or played with better teams. The short term money grab is fine, but for some players its a mistake. And just for the record, I don’t really tie Diggs directly into any of this. His contract wasn’t a money grab nor do I think he was completely overpaid with a contract he’d never see the end of. If anything Diggs situation sends the signal that even if you sign a reasonable deal and stay with the team that you were playing well with, you can still get shown the door.

I did say he’s been performing below average even prior to his hammy.

I think the big thing for me was when I heard that he was hurt and started to think the worst. Then Wilson and Harris stepped in and the bottom did not fall out. Instead they did a heck of a job containing the 2 best QBs the Lion will face this year. That to me was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Diggs. I wish him the best in Seattle, but do not see this as a bad move in any form.

I have to admit I mainly watch the Line play and the linebackers so what happens on the back end is seen on the final moments of the play. So why someone is wide open sometimes is lost