EAGAN, Minn. — There's a certain familiarity that Vikings players and coaches have observed with the way Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs approaches the football.
Diggs has opened his second pro season with at least one pick in all six games and double-dipped against Carolina in Week 4. Diggs also has dipped his feet in the end zone twice after returns of 59 yards against Philadelphia in Week 3 and 42 yards at New England in Week 6.
He's showcasing what Kirk Cousins described as "great ball skills" like his older brother, former Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs.
"Ultimately, to have interceptions, you do have to catch the ball, you have to be a receiver in a way," Cousins said. "And I think he has that ability, and that enables him to finish these plays as opposed to just having it be a breakup. They're an interception because of the way he can make the catch."
Asked if Trevon's approach to snatching footballs reminded him of Stefon, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said, "I think that's true. They both have terrific hands."
Cousins added: "That was one of the traits about Stefon that I thought was so impressive, was the way he would have aggressive natural hands at the football and make some really tough catches and adjust to the football really well."
According to NFL Media Research, Diggs is the first player with seven or more interceptions in his team's first six games of a season since Pro Football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson nabbed seven to open the 1993 season with Pittsburgh (three games with two; one game with one, two games with zero). Woodson finished with eight that year and claimed NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors from The Associated Press.
One play after Diggs housed a pass by former Alabama teammate Mac Jones to Kendrick Bourne, he allowed a 75-yard touchdown by the Patriots combination.
View photos of Vikings players from practice on Oct. 27 at the TCO Performance Center.
The don't-throw-to-Diggs mentality may exist, but there could be times to target the man he's covering.
Cousins' solid protection of the football (two interceptions on 239 attempts) through six games has helped Minnesota lead the NFL in interception rate (0.83 percent). Earlier this season he broke his own franchise record for consecutive attempts without a pick. Cousins attempted 224 passes without an interception from Dec. 25, 2020 until Minnesota's Oct. 3 game against Cleveland.
He said there will be respect for Diggs, who has helped the Cowboys total an NFL-leading 11 interceptions this season.
"You can't deny what he's accomplished. He's a great player," Cousins said. "I remember going back to his days at Alabama with Stefon being here, I talked with Stefon about his brother and knew he was a great player, gonna be a player in the league, so there's respect for him. You always understand that going into a game."
Harrison Smith, who ranks seventh in Vikings history with 28 career interceptions, said the "sheer number" in such a short span is "very impressive."
"It doesn't happen very often," Smith said. "The only thing I can remember similar is, I think Ed Reed missed a bunch of games and came back and played like eight games one year and had, like, eight picks. So it kind of reminds me of that. He's obviously making a lot of plays and getting his hands on the ball."
Reed opened 2010 on the Physically Unable to Perform list. After missing the first six games that season, the Hall of Famer recorded eight interceptions in 10 games. He led the league that year for the third time in his career on the way to a final tally of 64 in 174 games.
Diggs, who is up to 10 in 18 career games, has moved around a bit this season, traveling with a specific receiver on more than 50 percent of plays in five of six games this season, per Next Gen Stats and NFL Media Research:
Week 1, Buccaneers, 83.0 percent of Mike Evans' routes run were against Diggs
Week 2, Chargers, 46.3 percent of Keenan Allen's routes run were against Diggs
Week 3, Eagles, 55.0 percent of DeVonta Smith's routes run were against Diggs
Week 4, Panthers, 59.0 percent of DJ Moore's routes run were against Diggs
Week 5, Giants, 78.6 percent of Kenny Golladay's routes run were against Diggs
Week 6, Patriots, 55.6 percent of Nelson Agholor's routes run were against Diggs
"The thing with him is you don't know where he's always going to be, number one, and then the thing that I've been impressed with … is when the ball is in the air, he goes and gets it," Zimmer said. "It's not like if a receiver is running a crossing route and then the receiver slows down a little bit, he doesn't slow down. He's going to try to get in front of him to intercept it. He's got great hands, but he accelerates to the ball very well."