Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs finds himself in familiar territory and that’s not a positive thing.
Diggs again is battling a groin injury that threatens to impact his ability to remain a primary threat of Sam Bradford, Case Keenum or whoever is going to be the Vikings’ quarterback in the coming weeks.
Diggs caught only one pass for 4 yards in Monday’s victory in Chicago as the injury slowed him. In the first four games, he had 22 catches for 391 yards, an average of 17.8 yards per reception, and four touchdowns.
A year ago, Diggs had 25 receptions for 372 yards, an average of 14.9 yards per catch, with a touchdown through the first four games. It was in the Vikings’ win over the Giants in Week 4 that Diggs injured his groin, forcing him to sit out the next game. He admitted this offseason that the injury impacted the remainder of his season as Diggs ended up playing in 13 games.
This has to be especially frustrating for Diggs because he took steps toward changing his offseason workout program in an attempt to stay healthy this year.
“I had something I thought was working and it obviously wasn’t working as well as what I needed in the long run and the stretch,” Diggs said this summer. “Just switching things up a little bit, having a better approach, knowing more about my body and learning more.”
Diggs’ latest injury doesn’t mean he can’t be productive, but if last year is any indication of how things might go it will limit his big-play ability. That was on display in Week 3 as he caught eight passes for 173 yards with two touchdowns, including a 59-yard score, in a win over Tampa Bay.
Diggs, 23, finished last season with a team-leading 84 receptions, but his downfield productivity took a big hit as he played in pain. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he topped 11 air yards per target in his first two games, but had only four more games that reached that mark for the remainder of the season.
Interestingly, Diggs took much of the responsibility for suffering the injury last year, telling ESPN, “stuff like that is on me.”
“Muscles should be preventable if you take care of your body,” he said. “If you break something or something like that, that’s something you can’t prevent. But I should be able to take good control of that other stuff.”
Since Diggs arrived as a fifth-round pick in 2015, there have been plenty who have wondered how such a talent fell so far in the draft. The answer is because of injuries he battled at Maryland, including a broken leg that cost him six games as a sophomore and a lacerated kidney that cost him two more games as a junior. That was his final season with the Terps before he declared for the draft.
Diggs did not practice Wednesday as the Vikings began preparing for Sunday’s game against Green Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium. Last year, Diggs sat out the game after suffering the groin injury, then had the bye week and returned in Week 7 at Philadelphia.
He caught only two passes for 18 yards in what turned into the Vikings’ first loss of the season. He had back-to-back 13 catch games in Weeks 9 and 10, but those were his only double-digit reception games in the final nine in which he played. Diggs also sat out Week 12 at Detroit and Week 17 against Chicago.
It will be interesting to see if the Vikings consider holding out Diggs for a longer period this time. After playing host to the Packers on Sunday, they will face Baltimore on Oct. 22 at U.S. Bank Stadium and play Cleveland on Oct. 29 at Twickenham Stadium in England before the bye week.
If Diggs missed those three games, and had the bye week, it would mean he wouldn’t return until the Vikings play in Washington on Nov. 12.
That would be far from ideal considering Minnesota already is without standout rookie running back Dalvin Cook for the rest of the season and the quarterback situation is anything but settled with Bradford battling a balky left knee and Keenum looking like the starter for now. The Vikings do have the advantage of having veteran wide receiver Michael Floyd now that he has served his four-game suspension, and Floyd and Adam Thielen have the potential to be a reliable duo.
Diggs might not want to miss that much time, especially considering his offseason commitment to avoiding injury, but he also doesn’t want a repeat of being slowed for the rest of the year because he tried to return too quickly.