Patriots

How the Bills reportedly expect the Patriots to defend Stefon Diggs

The Bills aren't expecting the Patriots to place their Pro Bowl corner on their star receiver.

Stefon Diggs has had the Patriots' number since he joined the Bills. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Bills receiver Stefon Diggs has given the Patriots nightmares for much of the four matchups between the two teams since he joined Buffalo in 2020.

So, that might be why the Patriots could give Diggs extra attention in coverage when the two teams meet in a Wild Card Round matchup on Saturday. While the Bills aren’t expecting Pro Bowl corner J.C. Jackson to cover their star receiver, they’re planning for the Patriots to do a bit more to stop Diggs.

“(The Bills believe) the Patriots are going to do what they’ve done historically: double up the No. 1 receiver, put their best corner, J.C. Jackson, on the No. 2, which for the Bills, they think this gives a lot of opportunity to Dawson Knox and Cole Beasley here to perhaps get some more targets,” ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported on “NFL Postseason Countdown.” “And the Bills really feel like they left some deep shots on the field the last time they won in New England.”

The Patriots enter Saturday’s game with some big question marks at corner. Jalen Mills, the Patriots’ other starting outside corner, is on the reserve/COVID-19 list and it doesn’t look like he’ll clear protocols in time to play. With Mills likely out, the Patriots will be pretty thin at corner. They’ll get starting slot corner Myles Bryant back after he missed the regular-season finale, but Joejuan Williams, who was a healthy scratch for three of the final four games of the season, and Justin Bethel, who almost exclusively plays special teams, were the other corners on the active roster this week.

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Due to the possible question marks at corner, the Patriots called up corners D’Angelo Ross and De’Vante Bausby from the practice squad on Friday. Ross recorded three tackles against the Dolphins in Week 18, his first-ever NFL game. Bausby, a seven-year vet, has been on the Patriots practice squad since October and hasn’t played in a game this season.

Jackson and Patriots safety Adrian Phillips appeared to hype up their star corner going up against Diggs when speaking to reporters this week.

“This is exactly what he wants,” Phillips said. “He wouldn’t have it any other way. Whoever the top receiver in the league is, he wants to guard that person. When he has a chance to go out there and go against Diggs, he’s locked in. He don’t want it any other way.”

But Diggs has had Jackson’s number for much of their matchups. In one matchup in 2020, Diggs recorded nine catches for 145 yards with three touchdowns. In the last matchup between the two teams, Diggs recorded seven catches for 85 yards with a touchdown.

In addition to Diggs having a strong outing in the Week 16 matchup, the Bills did it without Beasley and Gabriel Davis while the Patriots’ secondary was fully healthy. Bills receiver Isaiah McKenzie also went off, catching 11 passes for 125 yards with a touchdown with Bryant mostly covering him.

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Despite Josh Allen throwing for 314 yards in Week 16, his longest pass of the day went for just 25 yards as the Bills mostly played it safe, scoring on all but two drives. Maybe Bills offensive coordinator and former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll has another game plan in him to take down his former team.

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