Before there was Carlos Dunlap, there was Quandre Diggs. When the former Lion was dealt to the Seahawks last season, he became beloved almost immediately, flying around the field, laying crunching hits, creating turnovers, and providing stability in the secondary that had been missing since Earl Thomas’s time in Seattle ended with a broken leg.
This season has been almost an entirely different narrative around Diggs, such is the nature of his position. Like an offensive lineman, Diggs is only really noticed when he does something wrong, such as taking a poor angle as a tackler or being around the ball after a long completion (admittedly, the former does happen too often). When he reads a play perfectly, taking away the deep middle third, he isn’t even on the screen. Though the Seahawks’ defense is allowing 1.5 more explosive passes per game with Diggs in the lineup this season (4.1) compared to last (2.6), the free safety has not been nearly as much of a liability as he has been made out to be.
Against the Cardinals on Thursday Night Football, Diggs made his presence and strong play impossible to ignore, both to Arizona’s pass-catchers unlucky enough to come across his area of the field as well as to the viewers watching at home.
In a difficult matchup for the free safety, with the Cardinals adept at attacking downfield as well as the soft spots in zone coverage, Diggs was up the challenge repeatedly and made Kyler Murray appear far more limited than he has all season long. Fifth in air yards entering Week 11 and having completed 7-of-9 passes of 15+ yards over the previous two weeks, Murray found no success attacking deep against Diggs and Seattle’s secondary, finishing 1-of-5 on attempts of 15 or more yards.
Maybe saying Murray found no success is unfair, because he was hitting open receivers downfield—unfortunately, so too was Diggs.
After Russell Wilson connected with Tyler Lockett to make it 13-7, Arizona had multiple long conversions to get themselves over midfield. On a 2nd and 8, Murray found his tight end, Dan Arnold, deep downfield and lofted a pass toward him. However, just as Murray locked on so too did Diggs, who exploded into Arnold, dislodging the football and sending it bouncing across the turf. Murray would miss Christian Kirk on third down and the Seahawks’ defense got off the field.
Late in the fourth quarter, with time winding down and the Cardinals in need of a score, Murray again attacked downfield, this time on a 2nd and 10 from Seattle’s 27-yard line. Larry Fitzgerald, with a step on Bobby Wagner, headed toward the goal post over the middle. Diggs, recognizing it immediately, got across the top with perfect timing and broke up the endzone shot, nearly picking it off in the process.
On 3rd and 10, facing defeat, Murray this time attacked down the right, with Andy Isabella having found a soft spot in the zone and seemingly open to the pylon. Instead, Diggs (as well as D.J. Reed, who recovered extremely well) got across in time to disrupt the pass, forcing a 4th and final down.
The final drive culminated what had to have been a deeply satisfying performance for Diggs and the defense as a whole, continuously stymying one of the league’s most effective offenses. Perhaps even more encouraging than their Week 11 performance is what could be to come. With Shaquill Griffin set to return in Week 12 and the defensive line creating more pressure via four-man rushes, Diggs’ job will become all that much easier and his impact on the Seahawks’ defense that much greater.