ARLINGTON, Texas — It was after 11 p.m. however 4-year-old Aaiden Diggs was nonetheless awake.
He had requested his father to get an interception each week. And Monday evening, because the Cowboys readied to host their division-rival Eagles, Aaiden upped the ante.
“He told me, ‘I want you to get an interception and a touchdown,’” Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs stated following a 41-21 win. “I said, ‘All right, I got you.’ So I kept my promise.”
The Cowboys have been carrying a 20-7 lead when the second-year defensive again lined up for the Eagles’ third snap of the second half. Diggs identified Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts’ three-step drop and fast recreation learn. He noticed receiver Devonta Smith’s quick break up and anticipated the rookie to run an out route.
Then Diggs, who practiced in opposition to Hurts and Smith as faculty teammates at Alabama, got here out of a clear break. Smith fell and Diggs met the ball alongside its trajectory, clutching it as he accelerated by way of a 59-yard pick-six. The Cowboys’ scoreboard turned to 27. Diggs grew to become the primary Cowboys participant to document an interception in every of the primary three video games of the season since Everson Partitions, a three-time All Professional, completed the feat in 1985.
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Interception. Landing. Simply as younger Aaiden drew it up.
“You want to talk about a player that’s playing lights out? Trevon Diggs is balling right now,” stated Cowboys tight finish Dalton Schultz, who recorded 80 yards and two touchdowns himself. “That dude is lock down. He’s going to compete with the best of them.”
The Cowboys hoped Diggs would make performs after they chosen him within the second spherical of the 2020 NFL Draft. Regardless of accidents as a rookie that sidelined him from 4 video games, Diggs notched 58 tackles along with deflecting 14 passes, forcing a fumble, registering a sack and intercepting three passes — all in opposition to the Eagles.
The stat line was spectacular to members of the Cowboys group, the ball-hawking abilities hearkening to Diggs’ receiver background evident. And but Diggs spent the offseason obsessing over the hole between his 14 move deflections and three interceptions. Get a hand on the ball, he instructed himself, and he wanted to safe the interception. He seen the hole as 11 missed alternatives.
Diggs shared that hole with quarterback Dak Prescott, revealing to Prescott his dedication to take the subsequent step. Prescott, equally decided to encourage his teammates in inventive manners, challenged the younger defender.
“We made a little (bet),” Prescott stated. “Go get five or seven picks and we’ll come up with something. He’s on the way to it — fast.”
Diggs credited his success, partially, to a deep understanding of Hurts and Smith’s tendencies garnered throughout one-on-one drills throughout their faculty practices. He received a hand on three of Hurts’ passes whole, together with a drive-killing ball to Smith third-and-11 with 2:52 to play within the third quarter.
From the ESPN2 broadcast, Alabama coach Nick Saban watched his former gamers compete. He stated he teaches defensive backs to learn quarterbacks’ three-, five- and seven-step drops.
“But they all can’t make that play like Trevon did,” Saban added, per 247 Sports activities. “He’s got great ball skills. He was a great receiver before he became a DB.”
Diggs celebrated enthusiastically however deliberately, not rubbing in his dominance to the “real quiet” rookie receiver whom Philadelphia chosen tenth general this 12 months. He had one other trash-talk sufferer: “I let Jalen know.”
Cowboys followers would possibly ask upon listening to this: How a lot of Diggs’ playmaking Monday evening mirrored his familiarity along with his opponent relatively than his pure abilities? Diggs’ 2021 physique of labor makes clear that his interceptions replicate his personal strengths. Towards Tampa Bay, Diggs snagged a Tom Brady ball that bounced off working again Leonard Fournette. In Los Angeles, he dived to intercept Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert’s move to Keenan Allen on an over route. Heck, even in Cowboys practices, the wholesome competitors between Diggs and Prescott ramped as much as a sideline verbal sparring. Diggs is aware of that realistically, his ex-teammates in Philadelphia had the identical alternative to capitalize.
“Devonta, he knows my moves,” Diggs stated. “He knows what I want to do, and I know what he wanted to do. So it’s a fair game. It was fun.”
“Fun” was a descriptor Cowboys defenders not often selected in 2020, when offenses routinely gashed them up the center for chain-moving runs and punishing deep balls. Does this unit nonetheless let up dangerous good points every week? Certain, Dallas allowed a 38-yard completion to tight finish Dallas Goedert on the Eagles’ first possession and passes of 28 and 41 yards within the third quarter. However two of these three drives ended with the Cowboys intercepting Hurts. Takeaways are not a fluke for a staff that leads the league with eight. Prescott and his offensive colleagues have come to anticipate it.
“That’s the expectation they have for themselves,” stated Prescott, who accomplished 21-of-26 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns and misplaced a fumble. “They’re a talented group, they communicate well, playing well together and it shows. They’re ball-hungry with a bunch of ballhawks.
“As long as they continue to do that, we’re going to win a bunch of games.”
Self-discipline, focus and progress seize the Cowboys’ consideration greater than extreme celebration as they give the impression of being to construct off their 2-1 season begin, the primary time in Mike McCarthy’s two years with Dallas that he has posted a document higher than .500. Gamers have been exuberant upon returning to their locker room, a fast water-spraying celebration in retailer to acknowledge what Prescott described as a “statement win” buoyed by a whole efficiency throughout phases. However they need this assertion to proceed, turning the web page into what could possibly be the chapter of a exceptional Cowboys defensive turnaround.
The steadiness that coordinator Dan Quinn has instilled in mere months makes Dallas’ 2020 protection (thirty first in speeding yards allowed, most factors allowed in franchise historical past) appear to be a distant reminiscence. Rookies are taking part in earlier and with extra affect than even the teaching employees anticipated, rising to the event amid harm and COVID-19 lineup restrictions. First-round rookie Micah Parsons has flashed at each linebacker and defensive finish; third-round defensive sort out Osa Odighizuwa hampered Hurts with 1.5 sacks on Monday.
“It’s a totally different defense,” Diggs stated. “You can take that whole year last year and just throw it away.
“We ready, we hungry, we got some young guys that are ready to compete.”
Subsequent up the Cowboys will host the Panthers after which the Giants earlier than visiting New England. A softer schedule awaits in October, although November will characteristic quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Derek Carr in the identical week.
Diggs plans to study and develop extra by then. To place the league on discover? “Trying to,” he stated late Monday evening when requested. To point out the NFL “I’m here.”
As Monday evening threatened to spill into Tuesday, Diggs wrapped up his postgame press convention within the AT&T Stadium tunnels with a mission first to point out 4-year-old Aaiden he was right here. Aaiden had attended the sport, Trevon Diggs stated. He was nonetheless awake.
“He’s up,” Diggs stated, his mushy voice contrasting the tone of his play fashion. “He’s up right now. I’m going to see him.”
Observe USA TODAY Sports activities’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein