The hits just keep on coming for Vikings rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs. From the time he made his NFL debut Oct. 4 against Denver, Diggs has become a rookie sensation.
He caught six passes for 87 yards against the Broncos and people were wondering how he would follow it up. He did so in a big way, catching seven passes for 129 yards against Kansas City, six passes for 108 yards and a touchdown at Detroit and six catches for 95 yards and a TD last week at Chicago.
In the process, he became the first rookie receiver in NFL history to post more than 85 receiving yards in his first four games. Informed of that fact, Diggs had no idea he had put his name in the NFL record books just one month into his pro career.
“Really?” Diggs asked with raised eyebrows. “I didn’t know that. I didn’t have a clue. That’s pretty cool, but it’s still a work in progress for me. It’s kind of surprising, but you have to take it with a grain of salt and go out there this week and try to get a fifth straight game.”
Much like Charles Johnson did last year when he emerged out of nowhere to become a starter and a go-to receiver in the Vikings offense, Diggs has become the primary passing target quickly. He has been targeted nine or more times in each of those four games and in that span has been targeted 40 times.
By comparison, Mike Wallace has been targeted 28 times in that span, Jarius Wright has been targeted 11 times, Johnson has been targeted just three times in the two games he has played and Cordarrelle Patterson has been targeted just once.
Diggs believes his rise to the top of the receiving charts for the Vikings has been the result of the play calling, as well as his developing rapport with Teddy Bridgewater. Both have combined to create the explosion that he has provided the Vikings offense.
“It’s part of the scheme in how we’re looking to attack other defenses,” Diggs said. “But I think it’s just as big that Teddy has trust in me that if he throws the ball my way, I’ll catch it.”
Diggs was instrumental in the Vikings comeback win over Chicago last week, catching the game-tying touchdown that gave the Vikings momentum in the final minutes of the game. It was clear that Bridgewater was focusing on Diggs, more than he had in any of the three previous games.
Of the Vikings receivers, Diggs was the target of 12 passes, far outdistancing the rest of the non-running backs in the offense – Wallace (4), MyCole Pruitt (3), Kyle Rudolph (2), Wright (2) and Johnson (1).
When Bridgewater needed a completion, more times than not he looked to Diggs to provide it. Even when the Vikings fell behind to Chicago in the fourth quarter, there wasn’t any sense of dread going through the Vikings, perhaps because both Bridgewater and Diggs were too young not to know the bizarre ways of losing in Chicago that had become such a trend for the Vikings.
He and Teddy weren’t nervous. They were excited about the chance to put their stamp on the new-look Vikings.
“We don’t get too worried about those things,” Diggs said. “I think it starts with Teddy. He’s always calm and that carries over. You’re going to have those moments throughout the season and in games. You don’t always know how you’re going to do it, but that’s what you’re playing for. You don’t panic. You just keep playing and things work out if you continue to execute at a high level.”
In the span of a month, Diggs has gone from being an anonymous rookie to a player who has accomplished something that no other receiver in the long and storied history of the NFL has been able to accomplish. Now comes the hard part – backing it up.
With St. Louis coming to town on Sunday, Diggs will have the opportunity to continue his unprecedented streak of success, but he knows the Rams are about as good a defense as he’s going to face. He made his debut against the NFL’s top-rated defense in Denver and put up big numbers. He’s looking to continue that trend against a St. Louis team that has prided itself on not allowing those big days.
“What makes them impressive is that they’ve got a great defensive front, good second level guys and strong players on the back end, too,” Diggs said. “They’re like Denver that way. They have good players everywhere and don’t have a real big weakness. You can’t ask for more from a defense. You see those similarities.”
When it comes to longevity, the jury is still out as to whether Diggs can become a go-to receiver much in the same way Antonio Brown, who Wallace has compared Diggs to, did for Pittsburgh. Brown was supposed to be a project player and not only became a starter, he became a Pro Bowler.
Can Diggs replicate that kind of success? That’s a high bar to reach, but he’s prepared to do the work necessary to give it his best shot. Whether he catches 10 passes or two, his biggest goal is based on team success, not individual accolades.
“All I’m looking to do is do my part to help the team win,” Diggs said. “I’m not looking at records or numbers. The only thing that matters to me is that we keep playing well and I contribute as much as I can for us to keep winning games.”