Stefon Diggs seeks big game vs. Cowboys, even with brother sidelined - Sport News

Stefon Diggs seeks big game vs. Cowboys, even with brother sidelined

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Dallas Cowboys are the team that Aron Diggs cheered for, and his sons, Stefon and Trevon, followed dad’s lead.

Stefon Diggs Responds to 'Very Hurtful' Hot Mic Remarks From Bills Reporter

Aron died of congestive heart failure in January 2008 and didn’t get to see Trevon drafted by Dallas in 2020. It’ll be a special moment for the family when Trevon’s Cowboys face Stefon’s Buffalo Bills in a key Week 15 matchup for both teams Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX). And although Trevon will not be in uniform because of a torn left ACL the cornerback suffered in a September practice, Stefon says the game still will have meaning.

“Not as much as it did when I knew my brother was going to play, but I still want to get a win, I’m still out here grinding each and every day,” Stefon said. “Before the season we had a lot of conversations, me and my little brother talking a lot of smack, in other words, but it was something that we really looked forward to. … Maybe in the future though.”

Stefon said his brother, who he did get to face in the Pro Bowl last season, was scheduled to arrive in Buffalo on Friday and that the two would visit. The teams’ place in the playoff race was perhaps among the topics. Dallas is 10-3 and pursuing an NFC East title and the conference’s top seed. Buffalo is 7-6 and in the thick of a crowded AFC race, two games back of the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East.

A switch at offensive coordinator Nov. 14, with Joe Brady taking over from the fired Ken Dorsey, has resulted in new energy in the Bills’ offensive room. The Bills have recorded two outings of 30-plus points since the change as well as a strong road performance against a quality Kansas City Chiefs defense last week.

But one area where the Bills have struggled to get going is with Diggs. The team’s clear No. 1 receiver has not had a 100-yard receiving performance since Week 6 against the Giants. Through his first six games, Diggs caught 49 of 66 targets for 620 yards (103.3 per game), five touchdowns and two drops, numbers that were on pace for career highs. In his past seven games, Diggs has caught 38 of 66 targets for 373 yards for three touchdowns with five drops.

Diggs has been targeted on a career-high percentage of routes run (29.3%), but the Bills’ offense is tied for its lowest percentage of receptions of 20-plus yards since 2018 (12.3%).

Defenses have focused on taking Diggs, 30, out of the game at times, a fact that is not lost on the receiver.

“It’s rough, man. Even earlier in the year I saw a lot of the doubles, but [opposing defenses] been doing a great job, especially when you put those first seven to eight games on tape of what you like to do and what you do,” Diggs said. “They’ve been doing a good job. I mean, for me, personally, I’ve been trying, bro, I promise you I’ve been trying.”

Under Brady, running backs have become more involved in the receiving game, with James Cook’s 14 receptions over the past three games indicative of the trend. Per Next Gen Stats, Diggs’ receiving Expected Points Added (EPA) have decreased from +29.1 to -6.5 under Brady, and his yards per route have gone down from 2.6 to 1.1 in those three games. Brady discussed this week that quarterback Josh Allen and the offense would like to get Diggs more involved, but that when it can’t, it does open opportunities for other players.

“There’s no secret Stef’s our best player. He’s first in our reads in a lot of our concepts,” Allen said. “He does a great job of getting open. There’s been some opportunities we haven’t cashed in on that nine out of 10 times we usually do. I’m not worried about that. We’re going to keep working hard and keep giving him his opportunities and targets, and everybody else is going to make some plays too.”

Since Week 7, Diggs has the most targets on the team (66) but is second in receptions (38) behind rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid (44), who has seen an increased role, as has second-year wide receiver Khalil Shakir, who has caught 22 of his 27 receptions since Week 7 and leads the team in receiving yards (382) over that time.

Diggs admitted not having the type of production that he would like has been less than easy.

“I’m gonna be honest, it’s frustrating, like being out there. I got to do a lot of things to get open and then a lot of things got to go right for me to get the ball,” Diggs said. “Y’all know how much of a competitor I am, and I like to play at a high level, and I always want it to happen and even if it doesn’t, when it doesn’t materialize, I definitely get a little discouraged at a moment, but then I got to shake back, cause I always look at it like, my team still needs me.”

Despite the statistical inconsistency, Diggs — who has been a captain and active leader for years — has never been more visible on the sidelines than in 2023. He can be seen pumping up the defense or special teams units before they head onto the field and is among those often seen trying to motivate teammates or sharing inspirational words. Coach Sean McDermott described him as “one of the best leaders that we have on game day” earlier this season, noting his development.

Diggs pointed to the team needing him from a leadership perspective to bring the energy, which helps pull him out of moments of discouragement. There’s also the leadership role he has embraced behind the scenes.

“I don’t tell him enough, but I look up to Stef,” Shakir said. “The way he handles his business, the way he is with us in the receiver room. We’re watching film and he’s pointing stuff out, making sure that everybody hears it, not just keeping it to himself, spreading his knowledge amongst everyone else. And especially young guys like me, like, we just love hearing that stuff from a veteran like him and what he’s done since he’s been in the league and what he’s doing now.”

Against another top quality opponent in the Cowboys, the Bills will need all hands on deck, a challenge Diggs recognizes.

“If you’re a real competitor, that’s what you want,” Diggs said. “And it’s not going to be easy. And I feel like in the past years we were expected to win. Everybody wanted us to win the [Super] Bowl. … But at this point, everybody like this, ‘Yeah, they’re a good team. We’ll see how it goes.’ And I feel like that’s a great spot to be in. I like being an underdog more than anything.”

 

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