Dallas Cowboys: Let’s talk about Trevon Diggs

Oct 31, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) and cornerback Anthony Brown (30) and cornerback Trevon Diggs (7) in action against the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 31, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) and cornerback Anthony Brown (30) and cornerback Trevon Diggs (7) in action against the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dallas Cowboys Defense Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboys Defense Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Value Element

Before Monson discusses “The Bottom Line” he talks about the value that Trevon Diggs provides as a cornerback. He mentions his run defense which appropriately has a bad grade attached to it. Diggs has declined in this department showing a lack of consistent effort on outside runs to gain inside leverage on receivers and constrict running lanes. In regards to his total value, I agree with this aspect of his game reducing his value.

However, it’s the next part that confuses me. This is what Monson says regarding interceptions as a play.

"Interceptions are almost always great plays for the defense, but there is a substantial difference between a defender reading the route and breaking in front of the receiver for the pick and catching a pass that lands straight in his lap after hitting the intended receiver in the hands. Statistically, there is no difference between those two plays. Qualitatively, they are very distinct and will be graded differently. That difference in grade is important because one is a repeatable skill, and the other is not. Typically, blind luck comes and goes, but repeatable skills have staying power.  Of his 11 interceptions, two hit their intended receivers in the hands, three more were thrown straight to him and you could argue the relative merits of a couple more. Still, there are fantastic plays in there, as well. His pick against Justin Herbert in Week 2 is as good a break on the ball and display of hands as you’re going to see from a defensive back. But the difference between that play and his pick against the Buccaneers, or his pick-six against the Patriots, is important. It’s not that either is a bad play, but neither are they achieving much above expectations for NFL cornerbacks given those opportunities."

I’m not confused about the grading system, but I’m more so confused about why the grading system exists? Byron Jones has been notorious for locking down opposing wide receivers with his great athletic ability. He’s also notorious for not turning the ball over in positions for him to do that.

There were many times during his tenure in Dallas where he was in a position to catch a ball and he didn’t. The difference in field position as a result of this was incredibly significant and part of the reason why the Dallas offense had one of the worst starting field positions in the league in 2019.

I can’t make a calculated assessment of the grading system because I don’t use it, but isn’t it possible that we’re assigning value to the wrong thing? Catching the ball in this situation provides immense value to one’s offense, but instead, we’re quantifying the value of one of eleven interceptions based on if a cornerback caught it off another person’s hands or not? Something isn’t adding up here?

I can understand the argument that all interceptions aren’t created equal because they aren’t, but it definitely sounds like we’re punishing interceptions coming off deflections because the cornerback didn’t catch them “in phase”. So here’s my follow-up question, how would a cornerback be in a position to catch a deflection off a receiver if he wasn’t in phase at any point in the route?

Diggs has definitely been lucky with some of his interceptions this season, but when the same luck comes to other defenders, most of them don’t take advantage of the opportunity. Shouldn’t we be rewarding Diggs for doing it so consistently over the course of the season? Shouldn’t the value of an interception also be attached to the offensive result of the turnover if we’re attributing value to WAR (wins above replacement)? (If you didn’t notice, the Cowboys’ offense has been really efficient at scoring off a turnover this season.)

This feels incorrectly subjective yeah?