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McClain: Diggs has been impressive off and on the field since being acquired from Buffalo

An image from the May 29, 2024 OTA practice at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX.
An image from the May 29, 2024 OTA practice at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX.

John McClain, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, is in his 48th year of covering the NFL in Houston, including 45 seasons at the Houston Chronicle.

If wide receiver Stefon Diggs handles himself as well on the field this season as he did in his first interview session with Houston media this week, Head Coach DeMeco Ryans will be doing somersaults up and down the hallways at NRG Stadium.

Anyone expecting fireworks from Diggs about his last season in Buffalo, being traded to the Texans or his relationship with Bills' quarterback Josh Allen was seriously disappointed. Diggs said all the right things about being traded this week and expressed nothing but love and respect for his former quarterback.

"I feel like he was an intricate piece in my career," Diggs said about Allen.

"Josh is still my guy. He really embraced me, kind of had that southern hospitality. (I) probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. I got a lot of love for that boy."

Diggs, who spent four years with the Bills after being traded from Minnesota, averaged 111 catches, 1,343 yards and nine touchdowns playing with Allen. They were a legitimate Super Bowl contender every season they played together. Diggs can give Allen a hug, handshake or both on Oct. 10 when the Texans play the Bills at NRG Stadium.

Diggs was asked about the perception among fans and media that his last season in Buffalo didn't go as well as he and the Bills had hoped and that his career there didn't end well.

"I don't take things personal from people I don't know personally," he said. "When you garnish your opinion from what you hear from somebody, it's different if you know them on a personal level. Not too many people know me on a personal level, and I don't share a lot of my thoughts."

Diggs prefers to look ahead at what he can do for the Texans and what the Texans can do for him – help him reach his first Super Bowl. He came close with Minnesota and Buffalo.

"I keep (working)," he said. "I'm going into my 10th year in the league. Obviously, I put in a lot of work to get where I'm at. The respect level is always there. They know who I am as a player, and I'm a true competitor. I love to win. I love getting better."

Diggs has six consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving. He has at least 100 catches in his last four seasons. In 2023, he closed his Buffalo career with 107 receptions, 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns. But there were persistent trade rumors, especially after the Bills changed offensive coordinators, and the philosophy became more run-oriented and less Diggs-oriented.

"I kind of felt it was going in that direction," he said about being traded. "Throughout the season, (I) had some ups and downs, especially after the first eight (games). We had coaching shifting and different things going different ways, differences scheme-wise and the up and downs of it.

"You kind of feel it in the air a little, When I got traded, I was happy. I was in a good place. I told God to light my path, and here I am. (God) makes no mistakes. I'm standing firm (with) that. When I say I've been smiling, I've been smiling."

And Diggs should be smiling. He's playing for a team that finished 10-7 in Ryans' first season and defeated Cleveland in the playoffs before being eliminated at Baltimore. The Texans are projected as a Super Bowl contender, and one reason is the passing game.

Quarterback C.J. Stroud has three outstanding wide receivers in Diggs, Nico Collins and Tank Dell. Interestingly, none was drafted higher than the third round. Tight end Dalton Schultz was re-signed, and running back Joe Mixon was acquired in a trade with Cincinnati.

Knowing he was probably going to be traded, Diggs got interested in the Texans after spending time with Stroud at the Pro Bowl.

"At the end of the season, it was a lot of gray area as far as what I was going to do, whether I was going to be in Buffalo or not," he said. "Going into the Pro Bowl, it just happened that (Stroud) wasn't too many seats from me where we got dressed. We chopped it up a little, and I got to know him a little. I was like, 'He's pretty cool.' (That's) kind of when things started hitting the fan, and Houston was on the radar.

"It's just the beginning (and) it's a work in progress. I'm getting used to the heat a little. I'm having a lot of fun spending time with the guys and building that camaraderie. I've been in the league a while now, so being around a good group of guys is always a breath of fresh air."

Diggs was asked about lessons he learned with the Vikings and Bills that might serve him well with the Texans.

"I'm a person of self-reflection," he said. "I had to look where I came from and a lot of things I had to learn. Whether it was in Minnesota (or) Buffalo, what were the things that worked, and what were the things that could have helped in this situation?

"I feel like things that I'm carrying over is just putting a lot more time in. Football is football, but you don't know what the extra meeting would do or extra time after practice or extra time in the morning would do. May be some little things can carry you over and do something that help you on the field. That extra time you put in could help you win another game. It's not about effort. For me, it was never about effort and grind, because I put the time in off and on the field."

Executive Vice President/General Manager Nick Caserio acquired Diggs, a sixth-round pick in this year's draft and a fifth-round selection in 2025 for a second-round pick next year acquired from Minnesota. Ryans likes everything he's seen from Diggs since the trade.

"He's the guy I thought we would get," Ryans said. "A guy who's made plays. Every time we've thrown him the ball, he's come down with it. A sure-handed guy. Really good teammate. Great energy around the building. I'm excited to continue to see his growth and (him) learning our offense and how we do things. I couldn't be more pleased with where he is right now."

Nobody is more excited Diggs is on the roster than Stroud, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Not only is Stroud getting Diggs and Mixon, but a healthy Dell has returned, which should give the Texans one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL.

"He's been fitting in great," Stroud said about Diggs. "Coming in with his head down (and) just working. He's helped me a lot. He comes from a good system. They (Bills) did a lot things with him.

"He's been a leader, really has been unselfish and wants to see other guys eat. That was his main thing. He wanted to be around other dogs, and he stepped into that role where there's a dog everywhere. He wanted that, and that's what we bring to the table. He's been nothing but amazing so far, and I'm very excited to work with him."

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