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Dallas Cowboys hope to turn a corner with Trevon Diggs, Kelvin Joseph

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FRISCO, Texas -- At first glimpse, there appears to be a lot of similarities between Dallas Cowboys cornerbacks Trevon Diggs and Kelvin Joseph.

Both were second-round draft picks -- Diggs in 2020; Joseph in April. Both played in the SEC -- Diggs at Alabama; Joseph at LSU and Kentucky. Both have good size -- Diggs is 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds; Joseph is 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds.

The Cowboys drafted both cornerbacks because of their abilities to make plays on the ball.

Diggs showed that last season, leading the Cowboys in interceptions (three) while starting 11 of the 12 games he played. Joseph had four in his nine-game season at Kentucky in 2020.

The Cowboys hope the similarities between the two continue through the end of the offseason program, into training camp and then the regular season.

Over the past two seasons, the Cowboys have found themselves in a transition at the cornerback spot with Byron Jones leaving after the 2019 season for the Miami Dolphins and Chidobe Awuzie leaving after the 2020 season for the Cincinnati Bengals -- both as free agents. The Cowboys felt Jones' price was too high to keep on the roster, and Awuzie had a disappointing season last year, mostly because of a hamstring strain.

Dallas covered those departures through the draft with Diggs and Joseph with the hopes the pair can become a long-term solution at the position.

"I feel like we're fixing to do a lot of damage," Joseph said after being picked by the Cowboys. "Just going against opponents, we're both physical against tall receivers, and we're smart. We're playmakers, so we're just going to put our techniques together and learn from each other and aim for success as we go."

Diggs had the benefit of training with his brother, Stefon, the Buffalo Bills wide receiver, but he did not have the benefit of an offseason program as a rookie because of the coronavirus pandemic. He spent a good portion of this offseason at Brandon Marshall's House of Athletes facility in Weston, Florida, after taking only a couple of weeks off when the season ended.

"That prepared me and kept me around some good energy and around some good people that want the same thing as me," Diggs said.

Joseph has been at The Star since the rookie minicamp two weeks after the draft, so he has a little bit of a head start.

"A lot of rookies last year, they didn't have this position. They were just like on iPads, learning from virtual," Joseph said. "Now that we have this position to go out with the coaches and get this quick head start, I feel like it's a blessing and I'm going to take advantage of it."

So, what is Diggs' advice to Joseph?

"Just work hard and keep your head down and work and everything will take care of itself," Diggs said.

At Alabama, Diggs played 46 games, starting 19. Joseph played 20 collegiate games with one season apiece at LSU and Kentucky, and he opted out of the Wildcats' final two games.

"Pretty much from the jump when you just watched him move in individual drills, you could just see the fluidity, the naturalness," Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White said. "He had only five spring ball practices, but you just saw him do natural things while he was still learning the defense. He understood how to make plays. It was, 'OK, we can teach him the technique,' but the part we can't teach, instincts, you either have or don't."

According to White, rust played a part in a somewhat slow start to the 2020 season for Joseph. In his third game, he had an interception against Mississippi State, followed by a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown in the next game against Tennessee. His best game might have come against Alabama and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith (now with the Philadelphia Eagles) when he had another interception.

"He's very much one of those guys that elevates in big games," White said.

Despite no offseason program or preseason games, Diggs was a Week 1 starter for the Cowboys. He became the first rookie defender to lead the Cowboys in interceptions and pass breakups since 1984, and he missed four games with a sprained foot. Coach Mike McCarthy said Diggs is the best young cornerback he has had when playing the ball, although he wasn't mistake-free as a rookie.

"I feel like I always need to get better every day at something. So, I always set my ceiling high," Diggs said. "It's not one thing that I can quite pinpoint, but it's something that I need to work on every day. It's how I go about my work every day when I come into practice, come into the building."

Joseph will be watching Diggs.

"I'm just ready to get to work," Joseph said. "It just puts you in that mindset of like, 'OK, you're here now.' Now I got something else to prove to everybody else, all the fans and everybody who is watching the NFL. We're ready to get to work and win this Super Bowl."