Allen Park — Plenty of high draft picks have to wait until training camp for their first first-team reps, but after seeing time with the starters during offseason practices, Lions sixth-round cornerback Quandre Diggs is confident he can earn a role in 2015.
For a Lions secondary with the four starting spots essentially locked up, the nickel cornerback job is the best chance for another defensive back to contribute on defense, and Diggs will join a group of players competing for time covering the slot when camp begins Monday.
“It gives you the confidence to know that you’re actually working for something,” Diggs said Tuesday of his first-team reps in organized team activities and minicamp. “You’re working for the opportunity that you can go out there and get a starting job. I think that’s a big deal, and it’s something I’m looking forward to.”
The Lions have struggled to find consistent nickel play for most of the past few seasons, but defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will have several choices for how to cover slot receivers next season.
At 5-foot-9, Diggs fits the mold of a typical interior cover man, but he’ll have competition from veteran Josh Wilson (5-foot-9) and 2014 fourth-round pick Nevin Lawson (5-foot-10).
Alex Carter, a 6-foot third-round pick, likely will be trained for outside duty, but said he’d like an opportunity at nickel. Last year, the Lions used safeties Don Carey or Isa-Abdul Quddus in a three-safety nickel package, too, so Austin could be creative once again.
Presumably, the best cover man will play in the slot, and Diggs said his post-draft reps with the starters showed him that Lions coaches were confident in him.
“I just want to go out and … try to contribute to this team as much as I can, go out and make plays,” he said. “That’s what they brought me in to do, and that’s what I plan on doing.”
Diggs’ recent offseason workouts in Austin, Texas, also contributed to his confidence. After a brief vacation to Mexico following minicamp, Diggs went to work out with other Longhorns players in the NFL, including Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro, Cardinals linebacker Alex Okafor, Broncos guard Louis Vasquez, Patriots cornerback Tarell Brown and Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo.
“Just take some of the wisdom from some of those older guys and just learn how camp and stuff is going to be,” Diggs said. “Just take advantage of every little ounce of knowledge they can give you and just learn how to grind and compete in the offseason.”