Cornerbacks usually endure bad rookie seasons: the receivers they cover are larger, faster, and smarter than the ones they faced in college, while quarterbacks quickly exploit their every mistake. But Trevon Diggs’ rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys was especially dire. The University of Alabama standout player and second-round draft pick made it easy to land, ponder a few tackles, and often looked like he was unsure of his objectives.
A year later, Diggs leads the NFL with six interceptions. He has intercepted at least one assist in every game this season.
Experience isn’t the only reason Diggs has improved. All Cowboys defenses played like they had spent the 2020 offseason, which was interrupted by Covid-19, with Zoom cameras disabled, defense coordinator Mike Nolan in one browser window and Minecraft in the other. The Cowboys ‘defense is still losing many yards now that Dan Quinn has replaced Nolan and training routine is back, but at least everyone knows where to line up, and Diggs’ turnover helped Dallas start a 4-1 season.
He is one of several NFL players enjoying breakout campaigns in 2021.
Cordarrell Patterson, successor, Atlanta Falcons
Patterson spent his first eight seasons in the NFL as a kick-off player in a league that no longer really matters to kick-back players.
In 2013, he left the University of Tennessee with a scouting bingo card that combines measurable factors. The 6-foot 2,217 pound receiver with a 40-yard dash time of 4.42 seconds was chosen 29th overall by the Minnesota Vikings, who then spent four years half-heartedly trying to integrate such a miracle of size plus speed into their crime. This is not unusual: Thor himself may have appeared in some training camps, and the coaches said, “Damn it, there is no demigod role in our scheme. Do you know any clumsy narrow sides? “
Patterson is tied for an NFL record with eight return touchdowns at the start of his career. But more than 60 percent of the initial strikes began to backfire, so his services were not in high demand. He leapt from Vikings to Oakland Raiders, New England patriots and Chicago bears, earning a three-time All-Pro notice as a return, but saw nothing more than cover for their crimes.
Patterson has finally landed this season with the Atlanta Falcons, a team desperate enough to try a crazy strategy of pitching passes and short passes to a player who has made a career of hitting 100-yard touchdowns. Patterson has averaged 93.6 yards from scrum per game this season and has made five touchdowns. There are only 2-3 restoring falcons left, but Patterson’s arrival is one of the few factors keeping the team competitive.
Rondale Moore, successor, Arizona Cardinals
Moore is 5’7 and 185 pounds barely fit for an NFL prototype. He’s fast and elusive, of course, but he has gone through two injury-related seasons after catching 114 assists in his first year of Purdue in 2018. NFL teams tend to be wary of tiny athletes with a long history of injury, but Cardinals think that’s the mainstream belief. for squares, which is why they picked Moore in the second round of the April draft.
Moore might have been introduced as an underutilized gadget specialist on other teams, but Cardinals coach Cliff Kingsbury loves gadgets. Moore moves throughout the formation in an unpredictable Kingsbury attack, catching the screen passes and taking the passes in the wrong direction. According to the Pro Football Reference, Moore is third in the league with 222 yards after catching 21 receptions and averaging 8.3 yards per shot.
When Moore makes his way through defenders after short throws from quarterback Kyler Murray at 5’10, Cardinals games sometimes look like take the kid to work. But the Cardinals are 5-0, so the kids should be fine.
Derwin James, Security Force, Los Angeles Chargers
James came in third in the 2018 Defense Rookie of the Year vote when he recorded three interceptions and 3.5 sacks as a versatile safety, edge pull and run for the Chargers.
Injuries followed: a fractured foot destroyed most of James’s 2019 season, and a meniscus ruptured all of 2020. The Chargers squad has suffered severe injuries in recent seasons, which wouldn’t be shocking if James was hit by a meteor on the track. the first day of the training camp. Instead, James succeeds again in a versatile role: 1.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and 43 total tackles for the Chargers (4-1).
James has not completely escaped the curse of injury this year. He dislocated his shoulder against Kansas City in week three but missed only a few flicks. Teammate Joey Boza told the Los Angeles Times that James “just put it back in and went back to the field.”
Locker Room Self Operation is a skill that comes in handy when playing as Chargers.
James Robinson, Runner, Jacksonville Jaguars
In their latest attempt to change their fortunes, the Jaguars hired legendary college coach Urban Meyer, spent their first pick in the 2021 draft on quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and used their additional draft pool to rethink their squad. So naturally the best player on the team this year will be the guy they were trying to replace.
Robinson made the Jaguars roster as an undrafted rookie in 2020. He became the starter a few days before the season opener last year, when Leonard Fournett was unexpectedly turned down, presumably because he didn’t fit into the team culture. (Fournett now fits the culture of the reigning Tampa Bay Buccaneers.) Robinson ran 1,070 yards last season, but Meyer picked Clemson’s all-round defender Travis Etienne with the 25th overall. When Etienne injured his leg in preseason, Robinson was back in the squad.
Robinson is fourth in the NFL with 387 yards. His 149 yards in Week 5 nearly spurred the woeful Jaguars to their first win of the season. Following the Tennessee Titans, 31-19, early in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars entered the 1-yard line, where Meyer ordered fourth gear to pass … to Carlos Hyde, a veteran Robinson understudy. Hyde was injured by a loss after finishing the rally.
Robinson will achieve even greater fame as soon as he finds a way to no longer fit the Jaguar team culture.