One of the biggest surprises from Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens was when the Detroit Lions lined up Quandre Diggs at the strong safety position, instead of their 2016 fourth-round draft pick Miles Killebrew. Diggs hadn’t started a single game at safety in his career—both college and professional—but after Tavon Wilson was injured against the Minnesota Vikings, the Lions decided to make the switch.
And according to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, it’s a switch that the Lions intend to go forward with. “I thought he did a good job last week in his first appearance playing full time in that position, Austin said. “So we’ll continue to move forward with it.”
Pro Football Focus doesn’t agree with Austin’s assessment. The play-by-play grading website gave Diggs just a 39.1 overall grade, crediting him with five allowed catches on seven targets for 60 yards and two third-down conversions. That being said, Diggs was again impressive defending the run, finishing third on the team with five tackles, and he also had one pass breakup on a big hit.
Regardless, it’s surprising to see Austin stick with Diggs at safety, considering Killebrew appeared to be waiting in the wings to take over for Wilson next season. Killebrew stood in immediately against the Vikings when Wilson went down, and has made three starts at the position this year. However, last week against the Ravens, Killebrew only played in seven defensive snaps.
Additionally, it’s a bit surprising to see the Lions choose to move Diggs away from the nickel position, considering he was having an outstanding year defending slot receivers.
These slots CBs aren't allowing many receptions in their coverage pic.twitter.com/aQwuVnyPQ0— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 14, 2017
But Austin’s confidence in Diggs seems unwavering, as does Jim Caldwell’s. “Yeah, he did okay,” Caldwell said of Diggs’ performance at safety. “He’s smart, he’s getting himself in the right position and the thing about him, you’ll see him continue to get better and better.”
The Lions will need to see that improvement on Sunday. While the Buccaneers offense has struggled this year, they have a pair of talented wide receivers in Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson that will require disciplined safety play. We’ll see if Diggs is up for the task this week.