WR Diggs is Vikings’ big-play weapon
in 2015 and he did it again against the Saints, catching seven passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
“Every play he wants to do something amazing,” said Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. “You can see that in him. He wants to be one of the greatest.” Sound familiar? The Steelers say the same thing about their All-Pro receiver, Antonio Brown, who showed last week in Cleveland he might just be better than ever. Former Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, who was with the Vikings when Diggs was a rookie, said Diggs reminded him of Brown.
“AB’s in a class of his own,” said new Steelers cornerback Joe Haden. “But he’s [good].”
Haden played against Brown on numerous occasions when he was with the Cleveland Browns. But he has never faced Diggs. But he watched his younger brother, Jordan, play against Diggs when both were in high school in Maryland.
The Vikings wanted to get more explosion plays downfield this year, and they are off to a good start. They had 470 yards offense against the Saints, their most since they had 558 against Atlanta on Sept. 28, 2014.
If it is to continue, Diggs will be a big reason. He had 903 receiving yards last season while starting only 11 games because of injury.
“He’s real shifty,” said cornerback Artie Burns. “He’s not real fast, but he’s fast and he’s real athletic. They try to get ball to him whenever they can. So we definitely got to make sure to keep our eyes on him because he’s definitely the impact player of the game.”
Burns prepares for such assignments against shifty receivers by covering Brown in practice whenever he can. He said the Vikings will line up Diggs everywhere in an attempt to get mismatches and get the ball to him.
“It’s the fact that as many targets they get, every rep you have to be on your game,” Burns said. “You never know what rep will be the gamechanging rep.”
The Steelers allowed four pass plays of 20 yards or longer against the Browns, who made several attempts to attack downfield with rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. Only six teams allowed more 20-plus pass plays in Week 1.
This will be a tougher test against the Vikings, and not just because of Diggs. Quarterback Sam Bradford, who passed for 345 yards and three touchdowns against the Saints, had 10 completions of 20 yards or longer in that game – most in the league in Week 1.
After his second touchdown, in which he leaped over cornerback De’Vante Harris and had to tap both feet in bounds, Diggs got up and celebrated by punting the ball in the stands — or, at least, trying. He shanked the ball off the inside of his foot toward the goalpost.
“It was terrible,” tight end Kyle Rudolph told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I told him when he gets fined by the NFL for kicking into the stands, he should appeal it because it didn’t make it to the stands.”
It might be the only thing Diggs can’t do.