There’s one big difference between the Detroit Lions’ trade of Quandre Diggs to the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday and the deal the team made to send Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles last year:
The Lions have plenty of capable replacements in their secondary ready to succeed Diggs, whereas last year’s trade left them razor thin at wide receiver.
“I think those guys in the back end have all been working really hard and developing, and some of those guys have had to really play in the last couple of weeks, and in some of those bigger games that we’ve had so far this year,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said Wednesday. “With those guys, they’ll continually push to get better, and they understand that maybe they have to take on maybe a little bit more workload or job responsibility. They’re good with that challenge, they’ll accept that challenge and kind of go forward from there.”
Diggs, a 16-game starter for the Lions last season, pulled his hamstring early in a Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and sat out the Lions’ loss to the Green Bay Packers two weeks later, after the bye.
Veteran safety Tavon Wilson replaced Diggs in the starting lineup against the Packers, and rookies Will Harris and C.J. Moore saw an increase in playing time as well.
The Lions consider Wilson their best run-defending safety. He played as the fifth defensive back in the team’s big nickel package even when Diggs was healthy.
And while the team viewed Diggs as too small to cover tight ends and saw his missed tackles as an issue on the back end, essentially leaving him in a robber-only role playing in underneath coverage, they see Harris as being a more versatile player even with his inexperience as a rookie.
“Just his work ethic, the way he approaches, the way he’s been consistent has allowed him to improve through the course of the season,” Patricia said. “He has a long way to go and he has a lot of work to do. But he also I think has a skill set that we haven’t really tapped into yet, too. There’s some other things that I think he can do to help us, and we’ll see if given that opportunity if he can perform at a high level with that, too.”
The Lions traded Diggs and a 2021 seventh-round pick to the Seahawks in exchange for a 2020 fifth-rounder, but Patricia said the move should not be construed as giving up on the season.
At 2-3-1, the Lions are entering a stretch of winnable games with little margin for error. They likely need wins in eight of their final 10 games to make the playoffs, and they could be buyers before next week’s trade deadline.
Before Tuesday’s trade, the Lions were light on the draft capital that might be need to be players in the trade market. Now, they have two fifth-round picks to deal with, plus single choices in the first through fourth and sixth rounds.
“When you’re trying to build a team, you’re always trying to balance decisions that are good now versus decisions that are good for the long term,” Patricia said. “But in the current moment we’re always about competing and doing everything we can to win, so that never changes. Really for us, in this world of the NFL you’re always alert for guys — look, they might be injured. Guys might not be out there anyways with some of those situations, and everybody that’s developing and playing behind those guys that’s what really makes your teams strong and makes your team resilient through those situations. You try to put all of that into play and decide if those decisions can be good ones for you going forward, and also in the short term.”
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