Written by Zachary Gartin
Welcome to the FIRST EVER edition of The Post-Corner, my new weekly article where I discuss one wide receiver’s performance from the week before and dissect it. The performance could be bad, or in the case of this week’s player, good. No matter the performance, I am going to ask the same 5 questions:
Where is the player lining up?
What routes is the player running?
How is this player winning or losing on these routes?
Why is the player winning? Is it the scheme, talent, or a little bit of both?
Is this type of performance going to happen again?
The player we are talking about this week is Stefon Diggs, who logged a fantastic performance in Week 2 against Miami. He tallied up eight receptions on 13 targets for a total of 153 yards and one touchdown early in the game. After garnering the most targets he's had in a game in 22 games and the second-most yards in a game throughout that same span, I felt I had to figure out why and how this happened. So here we go.
Where is Stefon Diggs lining up?
Where Diggs is lining up is the first thing we have to figure out when we take a look at if we want to determine why he was so successful against Miami. And there’s a lot of different parts to this question. Is he on or off the line of scrimmage? Is he the #1, #2, or #3 receiver in the formation? Is Diggs in the slot, or primarily on the outside? All of these questions help us determine the role that Diggs was given pregame.
To start with the first question, a majority of the time (A little over 70%) Diggs lined up on the line of scrimmage. This lets us know that the Bills coaching staff wasn’t afraid to let Miami’s defensive backs get in Diggs face. Which they did. A lot. Out of 47 total snaps for Diggs, the defensive back (usually Noah Igbinoghene, a rookie) would line in up press technique on 26 of those snaps, or about 55% of the time. He also spent 32 of those 47 snaps as the number one receiver on the formation. The Bills weren’t afraid to put Diggs on an Island, and they were right to do that.
Diggs also spent some time in the slot, totaling 14 total snaps in the slot and getting 35 of his 153 yards from that alignment. While he wasn’t as dangerous there, it was mostly because the targets wouldn’t come to him as often from that alignment.
Overall, you can see from where Diggs lined up the most (as an outside receiver on the line of scrimmage) the Bills were not afraid to leave him one-on-one and let him do what he does best, beat cornerbacks in man coverage.
What routes is Stefon Diggs running?
It’s important for us to know what routes Diggs ran against that Miami defense so we can determine if his performance was more scheme based, or if it’s determined by his skill. What I can tell you, the Bills knew they were going to be seeing a lot of man coverage against Diggs.
Man coverage tends to struggle against longer developing routes or routes that take advantage of leverage, which the Bills ran a lot. Stefon Diggs ran 26 routes on Sunday, and I would describe all but five of them as man-beater routes (he ran 3 Spot Routes and 2 Dig Routes). The most common route he ran was his eight Out routes, followed by four Drag routes, four Go routes, and three Crosser routes. Every single one of those five route types are at their best when the receiver is one-on-one with a corner, allowing players like Diggs to take advantage of leverage and athleticism to make plays.
How is Stefon Diggs winning or losing these routes?
Stefon Diggs won with skill this past Sunday. It’s as simple as that. He showcased why he is one of the most complete wide receivers in the NFL this past weekend.
You can’t say that without bringing up his competition and route distribution though. He ran a majority of routes that are designed to run in one-on-one situations against a rookie corner. But the two routes that are probably the easiest to win in man situations (crosser’s and drags) contributed only 43 of his 153 yards on against Miami. A majority of what we saw against Miami was Stefon Diggs putting up a master class in space and leverage manipulation.
Take the route in the previous section. Diggs ran what some call a blaze (or post) out. The first thing Diggs does out of his stance is attack Igbinoghene’s leverage, forcing him to move inside before breaking his route towards the middle of the field. Once Diggs gets the cornerback running inside, he drops his hips and stops on a dime before getting outside and making a fantastic contested catch. He played games with Noah Igbinoghene and the other Miami defensive backs all game, getting open visibly open on 16 of his 26 routes for the day.
Another example of Diggs taking advantage of space and leverage is on display in the hitch-n-go above. One of the two double moves Diggs ran against Miami, Diggs takes full advantage of the extra space his tighter alignment gives him. Diggs quick outside release and win at the line of scrimmage puts Igbinoghene in a trailing position. Once Diggs has the corner on his back hip, Diggs gives him a quick stutter to simulate an outbreak before stacking the corner. This allows Diggs to create extra separation, which gives room for a not-so-perfect throw from Josh Allen (It isn’t bad, but the placement could definitely be better.)
Why is Stefon Diggs playing well? Is it scheme, talent, or a little bit of both?
This is the question we’ve been building towards. Is it scheme or talent? Why did Stefon Diggs play so well this past Sunday?
If you were to put it out there as a percentage (which I will be doing from now on), I would say that 75% of it was Diggs skill while the other 25% was scheme. The Bills coaching staff did a great job of putting Diggs in scenarios where he can succeed, placing him on the outside in one-on-one situations caters to Diggs ability to manipulate space and leverage while still creating plays when the ball is in the air. Everything after that placement was Diggs skill coming to light. He played games with any Miami cornerback that lined up across from him.’
Even on routes designed for different things, he was winning them easily. When Diggs is one-on-one, he is nearly impossible to stop due to his understanding of route running and his ability to stop and start in an instant. Diggs continually showed us on Sunday why he is one of the most well-rounded wide receivers in the NFL.
Is this performance sustainable?
Sometimes this section of the article will be a nuanced discussion on whether gameplans or certain skills are sustainable for a week to week success. And while not every team will play as much man coverage against Diggs or match up a rookie cornerback against Diggs, the answer to the question above still has a very simple answer.
Yes, it is sustainable.
When a receiver as talented as Diggs gets consistent targets running the types of routes he is best at, only the best cornerbacks in the league will be able to contain him. Combine Diggs talent with a talented offensive coaching staff that gives Diggs plenty of opportunities to win one-on-one and a gung-ho quarterback that isn’t afraid to try and fit the ball into tight windows, and you’ll get a consistently producing NFL receiver.
To put it simply, Stefon Diggs is really good at football and he is here to stay.