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Forget Adrian Peterson, Stefon Diggs is emerging as a real weapon for the Vikings

We take a closer look at Minnesota’s brilliant rookie weapon.

Stefon Diggs has rewarded a lot of fantasy football players.
Stefon Diggs has rewarded a lot of fantasy football players.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS are 6-2 and currently sit atop the NFC North, a division most pundits expected the Green Bay Packers to run away with, particularly after Aaron Rodgers and crew started the season with six straight wins.

However, despite their own strong start, questions remain over just how good the Vikings really are.

They’ve certainly benefited from a relatively easy schedule so far with two wins over the league’s worst team (put your hands up for Detroit) as well as victories over the Bears, Chiefs and Chargers.

According to Football Outsiders, they have the toughest remaining schedule in the league, so we’re about to find out if they’re the real deal when they take on another playoff contender — albeit in a different conference — in the Oakland Raiders this weekend.

And while the obvious approach would be to focus on Adrian Peterson, today I want to take a look at wide receiver Stefon Diggs, specifically one play he made against the Rams last weekend that should give Raiders defensive co-ordinator Ken Norton Jr. all kinds of sleepless nights between now and Sunday.

Here’s how it looked on TV:

Source: NFL Gamepass

 Pre-snap read offence

The Vikings have their 12 personnel grouping on the field with Adrian Peterson (green) in the backfield and two tight ends. Diggs (red) is split out wide to the left. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is under centre.

The 12  grouping really suits a team like the Vikings because it allows them to power run the football — thanks to the two tight ends — or pass the football by using those tight ends to spread out the defence.

Source: NFL Gamepass

I’ve spoken briefly before about game situations and how that can determine play-calling and this is certainly a situation — second down with six yards to go, the Vikings down by five points and in their own half of the field — where the defence can’t really get an early read on what the offence might do.

Pre-snap read defence

The Rams are in their base (standard) 4-3 defence and showing Cover 1 with just a single high free safety — in this case Rodney McLeod (blue) — patrolling the middle of the field.

Because it’s second and six — and the Vikings last drive ended in an interception in the endzone — the Rams defence appear to be aggressively playing the run.

Source: NFL Gamepass

Janoris Jenkins (yellow) — who in 2012 tied an NFL rookie record with three interceptions returned for touchdowns — is the man assigned to cover Diggs and is ever so slightly aligned to the receiver’s inside to cover the route the post or fade route.

After the snap

Because of the nature of the camera angle, all TV viewers got to see ‘live’ was Diggs running down the sideline having received the football, but what they missed was some really good coverage blown apart by fantastic footwork.

As the ball is snapped, Diggs uses a little stutter-step but Jenkins is wise to the move and sticks with him.

Source: NFL Gamepass

Jenkins then makes his first defensive move and tries to jam Diggs, but the receiver angles his run to the inside and is able to avoid the block. Even though he fails to establish separation, he still has inside leverage on the corner back.

Source: NFL Gamepass

Despite this, Jenkins is doing a really good job of maintaining contact with Diggs using his right arm and keeping on the young receiver’s hip.

However, 10 yards up the field, Diggs angles his run even more to the right, as if he’s running a drag route — a route where the receiver runs downfield before turning at a right angle toward the center of the field, parallel to the line of scrimmage. 

Source: NFL Gamepass

As Jenkins also cuts inside to try and keep contact with the receiver, Diggs makes his move.

Simultaneously, Diggs and his fellow receiver Mike Wallace (#11) dig their left foot into the pitch and quickly turn back towards the sidelines they’ve just been running away from.

Source: NFL Gamepass

Despite Jenkins doing his best to react, Diggs turn of speed is too much and the receiver has all the separation he needs. Teddy Bridgewater does what he has to do, hitting his receiver in stride for a 30 yard gain.

Source: NFL Gamepass

Four plays later and the Vikings took the lead when the quarterback ran for a six-yard touchdown.

Conclusion

While a huge amount of praise must go to Diggs and his explosive technique on this play, credit must also go to Vikings offensive co-ordinator Norv Turner for his play-calling.

With Adrian Peterson in the backfield, the run game is always a huge weapon and the Vikings use that to their advantage here with most of the Rams defence biting heavily on the play action that Bridgewater and Peterson sell perfectly.

Source: NFL Gamepass

Raiders beware.

Read the rest of our Coaches Film series here

Rex Ryan’s victory in the Rex Ryan Bowl last night made Rex Ryan very happy

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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