OXNARD, Calif. – It might not have been intentional, but what a fitting way for Trevon Diggs to get the first preseason action of his career.
It still wasn't a preseason game, to be clear. The Cowboys' coaching staff held Diggs out of the Hall of Fame Game last Thursday, which means the second-year corner has still yet to see the field for a preseason game.
This plan was better, though, as Diggs took the field Saturday for a lengthy session against the Los Angeles Rams – the same receiver corps he was tasked with defending in the first game of his NFL career.
Asked about the difference between then and now, Diggs couldn't help but chuckle.
"It's slowed down," he said. "I remember my first game, I was out there – probably the first drive. My legs felt like bricks, I was in shock. I was like 'Wow, I'm in the NFL. It's my first game, it's not preseason, it's the real thing.'"
So much has happened since the Cowboys reported for their 2020 training camp that it almost doesn't seem real. It's wild to think that Diggs, drafted 51st overall just 16 months ago, earned a starting job as a rookie on the strength of roughly a dozen practices and no preseason snaps.
Having had a chance to practice against another team, with three more preseason games on the horizon, Diggs can sense the difference.
"It's very beneficial getting these reps in, build chemistry with your team and stuff in an environment as such," he said. "It's been real good. I enjoy it, coming out here with these guys every day and build more and more."
This matters for more than just Trevon Diggs. The Cowboys clearly want to revamp their secondary, and that process is already well underway. They drafted Reggie Robinson alongside Diggs last spring, and this year they spent Top 100 picks on the duo of Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright. It's a clear signal that they're trying to get younger and faster – well, faster.
The two rookies are already benefitting from a more normal preseason. Joseph and Wright both got snaps against the Steelers last week. And while it might not have been perfect, it's a far cry from lining up in Week 1 with nothing else to go on.
"The biggest thing is they know what to do," said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. "Our defense has done a really excellent job particularly the assignment, being assignment-sound throughout camp."
Diggs is part of that. It might have been a steep learning curve, but he is clearly moving into a leadership role on this roster heading into Year 2. If he can help the rookies acclimate as well as he did, it could go a long way for the entire defense.
"They're my little brothers. Anything they ask, anything they need I'm always there. I'm always trying to encourage them every day," he said. "It's going to push me to be better and push me to do my job."