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O'HARA: Diggs is a football player, first and foremost

Quandre Diggs is listed as a strong safety on the Detroit Lions' current depth chart, and he has also played cornerback and nickelback in his first three season.

But there is a more general listing that represents his true value to the Lions.

Quandre Diggs is a football player, first and foremost. That's a compliment that recognizes his overall skills and football intelligence.

"Smart player, who really understands the game," head coach Matt Patricia said of Diggs. "I would say raised in that Texas culture, where football is right from the time you can start walking – and probably before that."

Diggs' passion for the game and instincts are assets that Patricia appreciates, partly because it shortens the learning curve for the individual player and his relationship with others around him.

"It's good because those guys you have back there who have football intelligence, who can talk the game, they don't necessarily have to diagram it up and walk through it," Patricia said.

"They can just visualize it in their head. Those guys from a big picture concept standpoint, you can really put in a lot of different positions, especially the safety position. It's very similar to the other side of the ball, the quarterback.

"There are a lot of communications the safety has to do with adjustments, and different things he has to see from an offensive recognition standpoint. His ability to understand, then help the others is really great."

Diggs played cornerback and nickel back his first two seasons after being drafted in the sixth round out of Texas in 2015.

Diggs made a career shift late last season. When starting strong safety Tavon Wilson went out for the year with a knee injury in a loss to the Vikings on Thanksgiving Day, it was generally assumed that one of the backup safeties would be promoted to the starting job for the Week 12 road game against the Ravens.

But it was Diggs who started, and he remained the starter for the final five games. Moving to the deep secondary was a seamless transition. Diggs played the position as though he'd been a safety for life. Diggs had a sack and three interceptions in the last five games.

It remains to be seen who'll start opposite free safety Glover Quin in the 2018 regular season. Wilson and Diggs alternated starts in the first two preseason games.

Diggs wouldn't make any claims on the job when asked by the media Wednesday.

"Guess you guys will see when we play the Jets," he said, referring to the regular season opener on Sept. 10.

Diggs played all 16 games last season, with 11 starts. Besides strong safety, he also started at cornerback or nickel back when opponents opened the game with offensive sets that used three and four receivers.

For the season he played 789 snaps, third most on the team behind Darius Slay and Quin.

Diggs played all but 13 snaps in the five starts at strong safety. He maintained a heavier snap count than usual for a strong safety because he stayed on the field at nickel back in passing situations.

Getting more playing time was one reason he liked the move to safety.

"It was a good feeling, just to be on the field 100 percent of the time – being out with my guys, helping any way I can," he said. "We'll see where I line up this year. It was fun. You're free – a free player. You move around and are able to do some things you can't do in the nickel position.

"I enjoy everything about the game. At the end of the day, I'm blessed to be able to play this game. I'm blessed to be in the position I'm in.

"I never take that for granted."

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