And so, we've reached our journey's end. September seems like only yesterday, and now we're staring Week 17 in the face, confronted by the end of another season and the continuation of the Lions' five-game winning streak over the Chicago Bears. Who knows what else 2016 will bring?
Whoever ends up taking over as general manager of this team will face a number of incredibly difficult decisions from the outset. First and foremost of those, of course, is the fate of Jim Caldwell and his staff. The POD readership is understandably split on the issue, because there is no clear answer. Even if you subscribe to the notion that the second half of the season represents the "true" identity of this Lions team, you're still left with a squad that merely racked up wins against some moribund competition. For what it's worth, Football Outsiders' Weighted DVOA, which represents roughly how a team was playing at the end of the season, pegs the Lions at 12th in the league going into Week 17. So, the second-half "good" Lions are more or less a fringe playoff team. That's obviously a far cry from where this team was two months ago, but whether it's enough to make a difference is a question left to people with more zeros in their paychecks.
This is the last "Things of that nature" of the season--and depending on Caldwell's job status, possibly ever--so I'd like to end the season on a positive note by taking a page out of Alex Reno's book and talking to you about Quandre Diggs. Have you heard the Good News? Come with me as we go door-to-door spreading the gospel and singing his praises.
Over the past two months, Diggs has flashed all the skills you'd want in a cornerback, but what impresses me most is his tenacity around the ball. He doesn't necessarily show that sort of otherworldly athleticism and smoothness you get from a guy like Darius Slay, but they're different players. Receivers covered by Slay rarely get the opportunity to touch the ball. Diggs just refuses to let them secure the catch.
Diggs consistently gets his hands inside and rips at the ball throughout the process of the catch, often turning would-be first downs into lost plays. The second play above particularly demonstrates that ability. Drew Brees, as is his wont, puts a perfect ball on Marques Colston for a potentially big gain downfield. In the ensuing couple seconds, Diggs turns that big gain into an incompletion.
Diggs' ferocity on the ball in coverage is mirrored by his work as a tackler. The rookie corner consistently gets through and around blockers to bring down ball carriers.
Years from now, when we look back on Diggs' Hall of Fame career, we'll view the Lions' Week 11 victory over the Oakland Raiders as his coming-out party. He was all over the field that Sunday, breaking up passes and tackling people from sideline to sideline. Watch him cross the half the field to make this play:
Diggs lines up over Andre Holmes (18) in the bunch before the snap, and ends up being the running back to the opposite sideline to make the tackle with Haloti Ngata for a minimal gain.
The images do more than words ever could in describing Diggs' play. He's a solid coverage corner with great hands who doubles as a willing, aggressive tackler. Almost all of those traits are on display on this, maybe my favorite of Diggs' great plays this season:
Diggs passes the slot receiver off to the next level, rides the fullback out to the flats, reads the quarterback, and gets downfield to lay the lumber on the targeted receiver for an incompletion. What more could you ask for out of a rookie cornerback?
It's been a long season, and now, it's just about over. Thank you to everyone who read this column this year, to Jeremy Reisman for letting me write, and to all the staff at POD for making this the best Lions' site in existence.
Happy New Year, everybody. Go Lions.