Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills faced a lot of man coverage in 2019, and most of the time Allen struggled. He only completed 49.3% of his passes against man coverage to go along with 11 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Tight man coverage can give Allen issues because ball-placement isn’t really Allen’s forté. Seven out of eleven of those touchdowns were in the red zone, so only four came outside of it.
In the first clip of the video, you will see Diggs run an out-breaking route against Darius Slay. Notice Slay is in off coverage and is playing with zone eyes, so how Diggs attacks this coverage is much easier. He takes the route vertical and executes what coach Drew Lieberman (@SidelineHustle) calls an “in-set.”
“You’re really slowing down and selling it opposite,” Coach Lieberman stated, which is slightly different than when receivers run a “Rocker step” on routes that break 45 degrees like slants, posts, and corners. So against Slay, Diggs gets vertical, throttles down, and shuffles inside to his right into Slay’s view.
This is a tough route to read because once Diggs shuffles inside, he comes to balance and essentially has a two-way go — inside or outside. With Slay in a bail technique, he can’t open his hips until he knows what direction he needs to break.
So Slay has to wait an eternity for this route to develop and break. And by the time Diggs hits him with the out-cut, there is no way that Slay can flip and break on the ball.
With all of the Cover 1 that defenses played against the Bills in 2019, Brian Daboll not only needed a couple more weapons to help get the defense out of the coverage, but he also needed to add some tweaks to his routes in order to beat the leverage and techniques that come with Cover 1, and really most man coverages altogether. It appears that we can already see the influence Diggs is going to have on the Bills’ offense with one of the routes he ran today.
Today, at the Bills’ first padded practice of the season, Matt Bové of WKBW captured Diggs working the same “in-set” . On the snap, WR Coach Chad Hall takes leverage outside, much like teams do when they play Cover 1 because all of the corner’s help is to the middle of the field. So corners generally want to funnel anything they can to the middle.
So Diggs has to work this route a little differently with this sort of coverage. So, he starts off by bending the route towards the defender.
Generally, that alerts a corner that an in-breaking route may be coming. Then, he utilizes a break-step to slow down his momentum in order to throttle down. Again, this sends a message to the corner “the break is coming.”
Diggs’ body language screams in-breaking route. He plants with his right foot and even has the weight of his body tilted as if he is going to execute a shift to the inside (to his left).
Instead, Diggs executes a lateral shuffle that delays the actual break of the route.
But because Diggs is such a great salesman, the defender will look to chase the inside shoulder because he believes the in-breaking route is coming. So he will look to make a play at the catch point.
That’s when Diggs will cross up the defender by utilizing a head fake in the opposite direction of his break, plant, accelerate, and snap his head around.
The nuance to Diggs’ routes are some of the best in the league. He’s always refined his craft, and this sort of route running will give Allen a lot of open looks.