Buffalo Bills star acquisition Stefon Diggs: “I could be a lot better”

Stefon Diggs has reached heights few Buffalo Bills have seen before. Yet, the Orchard Park newcomer is anything but satisfied.

In the history of the Buffalo Bills, 49 men have earned at least 100 receptions. Only two have reached that landmark in a single season. Eric Moulds first set the record in 2002, adding intrigue to an otherwise meaningless season finale against a two-win squad from Cincinnati. It took Stefon Diggs 13 games with a charging buffalo on his helmet to get to triple digits.

Diggs, one of the newest players to enjoy the Western New York experience, has wasted no time in leaving a lasting impression on the Bills’ history books. Moulds may be trending over the next few weeks, if only because Diggs is set to break his single-season franchise marks. The pair are currently tied at the century-mark for the most receptions in franchise history (good enough for Diggs to lead the league entering Week 15), and Diggs will have three weeks to earn the 201 yards necessary to pass Moulds in that department.

It also helps that Diggs has saved his best performances for the Bills’ most crucial contests. When NBC’s football cameras descended upon Orchard Park for the first time since 2007, Diggs earned 130 yards on 10 receptions, one of which went for a score in the Bills’ 26-15 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Six days prior, he had 10 other receptions in a visit to Glendale, Arizona to battle the displaced San Francisco 49ers on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. 

But after the former performance, Diggs said perhaps the scariest thing an NFL defender could hear going into the postseason.

“I could be a lot better so I don’t think too much of it. I’m just trying to chase these wins,” Diggs said after his latest showing against the Steelers, per Cameron Hogwood of Sky Sports. He was keener to give credit to his offensive comrades, namely quarterback Josh Allen and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

“I give a lot of credit to the people around me, especially Josh Allen. Young quarterback, he put his faith and his trust in me to make plays with the ball in my hands and catching the ball. And coach Daboll, he calls the right stuff, he draws it up upstairs and puts me in the best position to make plays. Then my wide receivers coach Chad Hall, we put in a lot of work in practice. We rep a lot of stuff that is more game-like than anything.”

With Diggs in tow, the franchise quarterback Allen has taken several steps forward in his development, and Buffalo (10-3) has gone from mere playoff contender to potential division champion, one that would be a quarter-century in the making. The NFL has taken notice, as each of the Bills’ four December games will be broadcast on national airwaves. That division title can arrive when the Bills travel to Denver for the league’s traditional late-season Saturday showcase (4:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network).

A talented roster has been assembled in Orchard Park, one that many see in the postseason on a consistent basis moving forward. But many Buffalo representatives have yet to taste how sweet the playoffs can be, much of their experienced limited to cameos on the road in the wild-card rounds of 2018 (Jacksonville) and 2020 (Houston).

Who better to bring in than the star of one of the most renowned highlights in recent January memory?

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Diggs’ time as a Minnesota Viking came to an end after five seasons in March, but his time in purple was immortalized through the “Minneapolis Miracle”, the jaw-dropping 61-yard touchdown in the final seconds of the 2018 NFC divisional playoff tilt against New Orleans. Some place the video on the same playlist as the Immaculate Reception or The Catch.

With Diggs disgruntled in purple, the Bills reached out and sent over four draft picks to obtain him. One of those choices has since become Justin Jefferson, the 22nd overall pick in April’s selection meeting who is well on his way to Rookie of the Year honors.

But in a year filled with uncertainty and a team on the cusp of true contention, Bills general manager Brandon Beane wanted a surefire veteran to work with when it came to molding the offense into a fearsome unit. He knew he had that player in Diggs.

“Yes, the draft is stacked with receivers,” Beane said during the offseason, per Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com. “But I think it became evident with what’s going on around us now, that we don’t know what kind of offseason we’ll have. I just felt like it was going to be really hard, unless I traded up really high to find a guy that I know could walk in, day one, August 1st, and be ready to roll.”

“Obviously, time will tell if this move for Stefon was right. Sometimes the best-laid plans don’t always translate, but we’re confident and that’s why we swung with a first-round pick. You know I love draft picks and that was not easy for me to part with a first-round pick, but at the same time I view (Stefon) as our first-round pick and I thought it was good for the value of getting a guy like Stefon.”

So far, the translation is crystal clear.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets claim WR D.J. Montgomery off waivers

New York Jets

The former Clevelander didn’t have to wait long for another NFL call, as the New York Jets seek to rework their depleted receiving corps.

The New York Jets have turned to the waiver wire to restock their dwindling receiving unit, claiming D.J. Montgomery. This move comes after the trade for  Kalen Ballage was voided after the Miami Dolphins running back failed his physical.

Montgomery, 23, entered the league last season as an undrafted free agent out of Austin Peay. In his final year with the Governors, Montgomery led the Ohio Valley Conference with 18.9 yards per reception. Notable APSU alumni to make it to the NFL include linebacker Jeff Gooch, defensive lineman Bonnie Sloan (the first deaf player in league history), and Percy Howard (whose one career reception was a 34-yard touchdown for the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X).

He got off to a strong start during the NFL preseason, earning 124 yards on five receptions over Cleveland’s first two games and even scored a touchdown in their 30-10 win over Washington. However, a hamstring injury sidelined Montgomery for the rest of the season, and he did not appear in any regular season games. The Browns waived him on Saturday, but the Jets came calling after losing Jeff Smith to a shoulder injury.

New York’s early struggles with injuries have been well-documented. Smith had an opportunity with the Jets’ premier units after ailments befell top targets Breshad Perriman (knee) and Denzel Mims (hamstring). The newly acquired pair has been unable to partake in most of the training camp proceedings thus far. Another knee injury befell undrafted standout Lawrence Cager. Experienced veteran help has been called upon to pacify the issue, with the Jets signing Chris Hogan and Donte Moncrief.

The Jets’ regular season opens on September 13 against the Buffalo Bills.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Injuries pile up in the receiving corps (Report)

The New York Jets’ revamped receiver group is taking a beating. There’s a timetable on Breshard Perriman, but none so for a first-year pair.

The NFL season is still weeks away from its start, but the New York Jets are already dealing with injuries, particularly with their developing wide receiver group.

Per a report from Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, head coach Adam Gase revealed that Breshard Perriman is dealing with a swollen knee. Perriman, a free agent newcomer, is one of the more experienced receivers on the New York depth chart after the departures of Robby Anderson and Demaryius Thomas.

While Gase did say that he expects Perriman back on Saturday, there’s no timetable for two rookies in the group. The wait for Denzel Mims (hamstring) continues, while undrafted standout Lawrence Cager hurt his knee during Tuesday’s camp proceedings in Florham Park. Cager, an undrafted free agent out of Georgia, has earned strong reviews at One Jets Drive. ESPN’s Rich Cimini reported that he made a strong catch while lined up against fellow rookie free agent Javelin Guidry.

Though there is hope in the case of Perriman to return by the weekend, the Jets receiving corps continues to look thin on experience and proven weaponry. Perriman and Mims were expected to be the top targets for quarterback Sam Darnold this season, but Mims has dealt with the hamstring issue for a majority of camp.

Veteran help through the free agency wire is not out of the question. After signing two-time Super Bowl champion Chris Hogan and working out former first-round pick Kevin White, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported that the Jets are set to bring another veteran catcher, Donte Moncrief, for a test run. Moncrief spent last season between Carolina and Pittsburgh.

In other injury news, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that defensive lineman Tarell Basham injured his ankle during Tuesday’s practice and will undergo a precautionary MRI. Basham is set to enter his third season in green and earned his first career interception last season.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Opportunity knocks for WR Jeff Smith

New York Jets

Injuries have already attacked the New York Jets’ receiving corps, but it leads to a big opportunity for second-year man Jeff Smith.

In the midst of every tough situation, opportunity seems to knock in an attempt to provide a silver lining. Jeff Smith is on his way to the door.

Training camp has only just begun across the NFL, but injuries have already taken their toll on the New York Jets. A receiving corps that’s already reeling from the loss of Robby Anderson has been particularly affected. Heralded second-round choice Denzel Mims has been held out of early practices due to a hamstring issue and Vyncint Smith (no relation) reportedly needs surgery to repair a damaged core muscle. Minor reinforcement is on the way in the form of two-time Super Bowl champion Chris Hogan, but he’s some times away from clearing the quarantine protocols necessitated by the ongoing health crisis.

Behind veteran newcomer Breshad Perriman and slot staple Jamison Crowder, experience is at a premium on the depth chart. Jeff Smith, for example, is among the remainders with the most experience…and he has one NFL game under his belt.

But now set to work with the top units as training camp continues, Smith knows a major opportunity awaits, one that could shape the next stage of his NFL career.

“Next man up,” Smith said simply in a report from Randy Lange of NYJets.com. “I think my main thing is just to know the whole offense and wherever my chance comes, to be able to go in there, not think too much, and be able to play fast.”

It was Smith, 23, who fell victim to the injury bug during last year’s training camp activities. A hamstring injury of his own relegated him to the practice squad for a majority of the year, but he received a promotion to the active roster in time for the Jets’ December visit to Baltimore. Smith earned his first NFL reception, good for a 12-yard gain and a New York first down, but another injury, this one being an ankle sprain, prevented him from building on the momentum.

Though it was cut short, Smith’s professional debut was the culmination of an offensive transition that began upon his sophomore season at Chestnut Hill. Smith began his career as a quarterback but made the switch to receiver, a move that eventually paid off in the form of a rookie free agent contract from the Jets.

Smith hopes his former skills as a quarterback will help him out in this new, green endeavor.

“I played quarterback my whole life, so I’ve been able to learn things quickly and kind of retain that,” he said. “I kind of see things differently learning the whole concept, just kind of knowing what to do.”

“It’s like learning the offense through a QB’s mind but being able to go run the routes and things like that.”

Additionally, Smith is known for his speed, which was on display during his Boston College adventure. He is, in fact, no stranger to high-speed antics in New York-branded facilities. During his freshman season, Smith’s tough final stand as a quarterback was somewhat soothed by a career-best 117 rushing yards in a visit to Syracuse. Two years later, he returned to the Carrier Dome and torched the Orange for a 64-yard scoring run, one that permanently shifted a 42-14 victory in the Eagles’ favor.

“Us Florida guys just have that natural speed. My dad ran track and my mom played volleyball and ran track, so I’ve just always had that kind of speed,” the St. Petersburg native said in Lange’s report. “That’s just a positive side to my game, being able to use that speed at the right time.”

Overall, Smith has described his position shift as “smooth”. The Jets certainly hope his transition from camp hopeful to first-unit man goes the exact same way as an topsy-turvy season deals yet another curveball.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: WR Vyncint Smith to miss significant time (Report)

New York Jets

The New York Jets receiving corps appear to be taking another hit, as Vyncint Smith is set to miss several weeks with a core muscle injury.

Per Connor Hughes of The Athletic, New York Jets receiver Vyncint Smith will be sidelined for the next 5-8 weeks with a core muscle injury. Smith missed practice on Sunday and later visited a specialist, leading to a verdict of surgery.

With the expected recovery period, the earliest Smith could return would likely be after the Jets’ Week 3 tilt with the San Francisco 49ers on September 20.

Smith, 24, is set to enter his second season with the Jets. He was signed off of the Houston Texans’ practice squad last September and earned 277 yards of offense on 20 touches (17 receptions). Of that total tally, 17 Smith touches led to first downs and he also earned the first rushing touchdown of his career during the Jets’ regular-season visit to Philadelphia last fall. Smith also had reps as a secondary kick returner.

With Smith’s injury, the Jets’ already precarious receiving corps has taken another hit. Second-round pick Denzel Mims has been dealing with a hamstring issue and has been held out of the opening practices, likely leaving veteran newcomer Breshad Perriman as the top target for the time being. Jamison Crowder returns in the slot, but there’s a major drop-off in experience from thereon. Smith’s injury will likely lead to increased opportunities for the unrelated Jeff Smith, who spoke to Randy Lange of NYJets.com about this new opportunity.

Jeff Smith, a second-year undrafted free agent out of Boston College, partook in one game last season and earned 12 yards on a single reception.

“I think my main thing is just to know the whole offense and wherever my chance comes, to be able to go in there, not think too much, and be able to play fast,” Jeff Smith said to Lange. “Next man up.”

The Jets also signed former New England Patriot Chris Hogan earlier this week. Hogan, a two-time Super Bowl champion, is currently awaiting clearance to practice in quarantine after his signing was announced on Sunday.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets #MockDraftMonday: April 20, 2020

ESM’s New York Jets experts present their final seven-round mock drafts as a big trio of days for Gang Green approaches.

The date of a full-on return has yet to be placed. But live sports are slowly working their way back into our lives. Friday saw the WNBA Draft staged in a virtual setting. NASCAR’s nationally televised virtual races returned over the weekend.

Football fans will get their fix starting on Thursday night, as the NFL Draft will likewise conduct their selection proceedings in a virtual arena (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC/NFL Network).

How will things shake out for the New York Jets? ESM’s experts weigh in and prognosticate in their final 2020 mock drafts…

Geoff Magliocchetti

1st Round (11th overall): OT Jedrick Willis, Alabama
2nd Round (48th overall): WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
3rd Round (68th overall): CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah
3rd Round (79th overall): S Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois
4th Round (120th overall): EDGE Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
5th Round (158th overall): WR Joe Reed, Virginia
6th Round (191st overall): RB Patrick Taylor Jr., Memphis
6th Round (211th overall): K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia

The debate between a receiver and an offensive lineman has been more tightly contested battle amongst New Yorkers than the preference of Seinfeld or Friends as their favorite local 90s sitcom. But the Jets are in the enviable position NBC was placed in during that lucrative era: they’re placed in a situation where there is an endless supply of talent in the category.

Premiere picks are dedicated to filling both of these needs. Willis was the darling of the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, earning strong praise for his strength and athleticism. A deep receiver class would also yield the talents of Aiyuk, who tore apart the man coverage of the Pac-12 and developed a strong reputation as an earner of yards after the catch. Defensive needs are taken care of with the middle picks. Johnson and Chinn add depth in the secondary, while Willekes (18 sacks over the last two seasons) will raise the pressure on a division that will feature competitions against the multi-talented Josh Allen (and, possibly, Tua Tagovailoa if the Patriots or Dolphins opt to find their franchise quarterbacks).

This day three set would allow the Jets to not only address another offensive need, finding a spell option for Le’Veon Bell. The powerful Taylor could become a goal-line and short-yardage steal, especially if teams are still wary about an ankle injury that cost him a portion of his senior season. But day three could also afford the Jets an opportunity to bolster their special teams. The Georgia staple Blankenship could finally end the post-Jason Myers kicking carousel, while Reed could be the answer to Andre Roberts’ departure. Reed can also serve as a slot receiver, having earned 14 touchdown receptions over the last season seasons.

Dylan Price

1st Round (11th overall): OT Jedrick Willis, Alabama
2nd Round (48th overall): WR Michael Pittman Jr., USC
3rd Round (68th overall): CB Damon Arnette, Ohio State
3rd Round (79th overall): EDGE Jonathan Greenard, Florida
4th Round (120th overall): DT Larrell Murchison, NC State
5th Round (158th overall): OL Michael Onwenu, Michigan
6th Round (191st overall): WR John Hightower, Boise State
6th Round (211th overall): K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia

Wills is the only pick that has remained consistent in this final mock draft, Wills becomes the anchor of the future. Pittman has familiarity with Darnold and could be the next steal from USC like JuJu Smith Schuester. Arnette is a talented outside corner who can be the next good OSU corner.

Greenard and Murchison have received a lot of interest from the Jets and would be ideal targets here to add defensive depth. Onwenu and Hightower provide size and speed respectively. Both could develop into could pieces but will begin as depth guys. Rodrigo Blankenship becomes the kicker for the future and rounds out a solid class for Joe Douglas.

Brendan Carpenter

1st Round (11th overall): OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville
2nd Round (48th overall): WR Jalen Reagor, TCU
3rd Round (68th overall): EDGE Bradlee Anae, Utah
3rd Round (79th overall): WR Bryan Edwards, South Carolina
4th Round (120th overall): CB Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame
5th Round (158th overall): DE Jonathan Greenard, Florida
6th Round (191st overall): LB Mohamed Berry, Nebraska
6th Round (211th overall): K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia

Taking a receiver with the first pick is tempting, but the Jets instead choose to sure up their offensive line. At 6’7″ and 364 pounds, Becton is a monster on the line. A flagged drug test at the combine has raised some questions and may make him available outside the top-10. I have gone back-and-forth between Reagor and Tee Higgins in the second, but I don’t see Higgins lasting to this pick. The Jets sure up their line in the first round and get Darnold a fresh target here. After acquiring the third pick from the Giants in the Leonard Williams trade, the Jets could look to add a new pass rusher. In 14 starts this past season, Anae recorded 13 sacks. His knack for finding the quarterback is the deciding factor here.

Edwards, at 6’3″ and 212 pounds, would be a solid target for Darnold. However, there are question marks. He missed his final two games with a knee injury and broke his foot while training for the combine. After taking Reagor in the second round, Edwards is another addition that could have decent upside. Cornerback is also a position of need for Gang Green. With Jeff Okudah most likely going in the top-five in the draft, there is no need to reach for one after that. Getting Pride Jr. in the third round would satisfy a need the Jets desperately need to address. He would slide in to play alongside Pierre Desir and Brian Poole in the secondary. He falls back past the original round three pick I had him at, so the Jets get their guy, just later.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags