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Cowboys' Trevon Diggs using former receiver instincts at cornerback

Trevon Diggs enters his second season at cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys, but playing in the secondary wasn’t always the plan for Diggs.

OXNARD, Calif — Things are starting to slow down for Trevon Diggs.

The Dallas Cowboys 2020 second-round pick from Alabama is entering just his third season playing as a defensive back. The younger brother of Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl receiver Stefon Diggs comes from a family of wideouts, but his destiny lies with the defense.

After a rookie season when Diggs produced 58 combined tackles, 1.0 sack, a tackle for loss, 14 pass breakups, a forced fumble, and three interceptions in 11 games, Diggs is feeling more confident and comfortable as a cornerback.

The ball doesn't find him; Diggs makes a point to find the ball. It must be some vestigial instinct from when he used to be a receiver.

"Ever since I converted to playing defensive back, just being around the ball, always trying to find the ball," Diggs told "The Hardline" on 1310 The Ticket [KTCK-AM] Tuesday. "So, it kind of feels like it worked out in my favor, because I always worked on that and played it that way."

Alabama coach Nick Saban was the man who helped Diggs with his conversion. The living legend in college football asked the 6-1, 203-pound Diggs if he wanted to play in the NFL. If he did, a pathway was available on defense.

"I was like, 'All right. I'll give it a shot. I'll try it out,'" said Diggs. "And then one camp I did and it fit, and I just stuck with it and I tried to protect my craft as much as possible. I tried to work as hard as possible. As soon as he said that, that's what my main focus was and it worked out."

Diggs provided the Crimson Tide with three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, eight pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, including another returned for a touchdown, and 37 combined tackles. His production was good enough to land him on the all-SEC first-team and a Round 2 selection (51st overall) in the 2020 NFL draft.

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He still believes he could play receiver if asked, but Diggs enjoys playing cornerback much more these days.

One of the biggest lessons Diggs had to learn playing on defense was how to get over opposing receivers catching the ball. After all, you win by putting points on the scoreboard and the rules are tilted to give the offense an advantage.

Said Diggs: "That's something I had to learn because I used to be down on myself. I don't like them catching the ball on me. I don't like them to get anything. So, that was something that I had to work on when I get beat on the ball, move on to the next play. And now I just look at as they catch the ball on me, it's my turn. I got to get some give back.

"I got to keep focusing and forget about it and keep playing. So, now, I use it to my advantage. I use it now as fuel. I don't want them catching anything. You got to have a short memory. They throw the ball a lot of times during the game, so you're going to have opportunities. They're professionals too at the end of the day."

As a former receiver, Diggs knows that if a cornerback's eyes are on the quarterback, he is losing track of his man. Therefore, Diggs keeps his focus on his assignment before attempting to make a play on the ball.

"It's all about your mindset and just the eye-discipline, because, really, when you're playing man-coverage, one on one, you don't want to look back at the quarterback anytime until it's time to look back at the quarterback," said Diggs. "So, that's something that you got to keep practicing and focusing on until it becomes second nature."

Defensive back has quickly become second nature for the former wideout.

Do you think Trevon Diggs will play at a Pro Bowl level in his sophomore season? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.