Trevon Diggs' hot, three-INT start sending message about Cowboys' defense

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Aaiden Diggs had a message for his father before Monday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I want you to get an interception and a touchdown,” the younger Diggs told Trevon Diggs, the Dallas Cowboys second-year cornerback.

“I said, ‘All right, I got you,’" Trevon said. “I kept my promise.”

Diggs returned his third-quarter interception of former Alabama teammate Jalen Hurts 59 yards for a touchdown that all but put to rest any chance of a Philadelphia comeback, propelling the Cowboys to a 41-21 win over their NFC East rival.

It was the first touchdown of Diggs’ career and the first interception return for a score by a Cowboy since Byron Jones in 2017.

“I think like a lot of these guys in the NFL, it’s the second year now and you know what to expect,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s better physically prepared to play each week. He’s had a full offseason, instructional as far as what the defense is. I think he’s seeing it clean. And the guy has got phenomenal hand-eye coordination. Just the way he breaks on the ball. He’s got as fine a [pair of] hands as I’ve seen on the back end in a long time.”

Diggs led the Cowboys in interceptions as a rookie in 2020 with three. He now has three interceptions in three games, becoming the first Cowboys corner with a pick in each of the first three games of a season since Everson Walls in 1985. The last Cowboy to intercept a pass in three straight games was Terence Newman in 2007.

“He told me last year he got his hands on five or seven balls or something, whatever the number was, that he thought he could have intercepted,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “So we made a little [bet], go get five or seven picks and we’ll come up with something. He’s on his way to it -- fast.”

He may have had some inside information, since he practiced against Hurts and the intended receiver on the interception -- DeVonta Smith -- every day at Alabama. But he also said Hurts and Smith knew his moves as well.

“I had read Jalen, his three-step, his quick game read, and receiver had a short split so I was expecting him to run an out,” Diggs said.

"You can take that whole year last year and just throw it away. It's a whole new defense. We're ready. We're hungry." Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs

Smith slipped, but Diggs would have had the takeaway anyway. He went untouched for the score that gave the Cowboys a 27-7 lead less than a minute into the second half.

“DeVonta is real quiet,” Diggs said. “I let Jalen know. That’s my guy, though.”

And the Eagles might be Diggs’ favorite opponent. In three games against Philadelphia, he has four interceptions. Cornerback Anthony Brown recorded the Cowboys’ other takeaway with a first-quarter interception, giving the Cowboys an NFL-best eight takeaways in three games.

It’s their most takeaways through three games since 2007. They did not record their eighth takeaway in 2020 until their 10th game. Through three games last year, the Cowboys were minus-4 in turnover differential. At plus-5 this year, they are tied for first.

“It’s a totally different defense,” Diggs said. “You can take that whole year last year and just throw it away. It’s a whole new defense. We’re ready. We’re hungry. We got some guys ready to ball and ready to compete.”

Diggs had success against Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans (three receptions, 24 yards) in the opener. And on Monday night, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, he lined up against Smith 22 times and gave up just two receptions on four targets for 9 yards.

“[Diggs is] so competitive,” McCarthy said. “I mean that’s who we see every day in practice, really since he’s been here. He’s clearly on a roll right now. He’s in the zone. Matchup-wise, he’s taking the best receiver. We weren’t in that format tonight [as much], but he’s playing at a high level.”

The Cowboys have not had a cornerback record four interceptions in a season since Newman in 2011. Since 2015, their interception leader has not surpassed three on a season.

Is Diggs putting the league on notice?

“Trying to,” he said.

What does he want them to know?

“That I’m here."