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Patriots quarterback Mac Jones on facing NFL interceptions leader Trevon Diggs: ‘You can’t be afraid of anybody’

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New England Patriots v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Five games into the NFL’s 2021 regular season, no player has intercepted more passes than the Dallas Cowboys’ Trevon Diggs. The second-year cornerback has picked off six throws so far — three more than any other defender in the league.

Diggs’ playmaking ability is a key reason why the Cowboys are among the best teams in football right now, and entering their Week 6 matchup with the New England Patriots on a four-game winning streak. The Patriots know this as well, and that they have to be careful throwing his way on Sunday.

“He’s all over the tape. He’s sideline-to-sideline making plays and playing his technique. You have to be aware of where he is at all times,” quarterback Mac Jones said earlier this week.

Jones and Diggs are no strangers to one another after having spent their college careers at the University of Alabama together. While Diggs left before Jones took over as the Crimson Tide’s QB1 in 2020, they repeatedly squared off on the practice fields.

Now, they will meet again under different circumstances.

“He’s a great player and I got a chance to practice against him a lot at Alabama,” Jones said. “He has a really good feel for the game. He’s very instinctual, very smart, fast, quick, explosive, strong. He does it all really well. Really proud of how he’s been playing. It’s going to be fun to get a chance to be on the field with him again.”

This season, quarterbacks have had little fun going up against Diggs. The 24-year-old notched at least one interception in each game so far, and can be seen as the current frontrunner to earn the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. He has established himself as one of the top cornerbacks in football, and a key member of an emerging Dallas defense.

Nonetheless, Jones knows that he cannot be scared going into the battle.

“Obviously, you can’t be afraid of anybody,” he said.

“You just have to know where he’s at because you have to respect him, respect his game, respect his knowledge, and respect everybody on their defense and their coaching staff because they do a good job in preparation; it’s showing up on the tape. We have all the respect in the world for those guys, and they’re playing really well. It will be a lot of fun to compete with them.”

The Patriots’ rookie quarterback, who himself has thrown five interceptions this year, added that Diggs would not be the only player on the Dallas defense capable of making big plays.

“He makes plays [but] it’s not just him; there’s other guys on their team that are also making plays,” Jones said. “They all play hard and they play together, so it’s a really good all-around defense.”

While Diggs is the most prominent player on the Dallas defense, there are three others who have intercepted passes as well to give their team the league-lead with 10 combined picks. The unit coordinated by ex-Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has furthermore recovered a pair of fumbles. Their 12 combined takeaways and +7 turnover differential have the Cowboys ranked second in the league in both categories.

The group as a whole has been impressive, but as Jones has seen first-hand down in Tuscaloosa: Diggs is a player to keep an eye on at all times.