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Teez Tabor needs to learn to trust himself again to get his Lions career back on track

Some guys, like Tabor, just take a little longer to get going. Getting his confidence back would go a long way to helping him grab a starting CB job.

Seattle Seahawks v Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

I’m not quite sure how a defensive back allows a perfect quarterback rating for a whole season.

For a game? Sure.

Maybe even for a few games? Not ideal, but things happen.

But for whole season? Or in this specific case, the 12 games you were actually active? I mean that’s kind of nuts.

And yet, that is exactly what happened to Teez Tabor in coverage last year.

I don’t think I can say yikes strongly enough.

However, if reports are true, he has evidently bounced back from his rough 2018 and has put in a ton of work this offseason to try to improve as a player and turn his career around. After all, this kid was a second-round pick in 2017, and he certainly had plenty of talent when he came out.

Since he has been in the league, though, Tabor has definitely taken his lumps. There were some questions about his speed before the draft, and he ended up running a 4.6-second 40, but I’m not sure anyone would have believed he would be off to this slow of a start to his career.

The good news is Tabor has a chance this season to show his hard work has paid off.

If he really has worked on losing weight and getting faster, that could help him tremendously because what I noticed watching his film is that on almost all of the catches he allowed last season, Tabor isn’t really in bad position. He was usually maybe a half a step behind his guy if that, but he just couldn’t make a play on the ball.

That suggests he did need to work on his speed and quickness, but that he also needed to try to get his confidence back.

When guys are used to making plays all of their life, sometimes getting roasted once they get to the league can shake them to their core. I don’t care if it’s a defensive lineman who all of a sudden can’t get to the quarterback anymore, or a wide receiver who can’t seem to get open against NFL competition — being the nail rather than the hammer can do a number on anybody’s psyche.

Then you factor in all the pressure of being a high draft pick and it is easy to see how when things start going wrong for some guys, it’s hard to get back on track.

One thing I believe works in Tabor’s favor is that he will be going into his second season in the same defensive scheme this year. That means he should have a lot of familiarity with what the Lions are trying to do on defense and won’t have to be thinking so much while he plays.

That is a huge deal for any player, because when you are thinking too much or second-guessing yourself, it’s hard to play fast. And for a guy like Tabor, in particular, who already isn’t the fastest defensive back you will see, not playing up to his top speed gives him almost no chance to actually be successful.

It just so happens the Lions have a starting corner position up for grabs.

Earlier this offseason, the Lions released Nevin Lawson, who had started for the prior four seasons. Lawson is now playing for the Raiders, but the starting position he left behind is wide open from all indications. Tabor’s primary competition for that job is likely to be Rashaan Melvin, who has been a starter in the NFL but who has also bounced around quite a bit heading into his seventh year.

In normal circumstances, a second-round pick from just a few years ago would probably have a leg up on a guy like Melvin. But with the way Tabor has performed thus far in his career, if he ended up being named the starter you can just about bet your ass he actually earned it.

I don’t think anything is going to be given to him at this point, which is fine because I think he does have enough talent to deserve to start. But in order to do so, he is going to have to show this preseason that all of his offseason work wasn’t just an illusion. Tabor has to get his confidence back first and foremost, and that can only come from making plays in games.

If he can nail that job down, however, I think we will see the Teez Tabor we expected when he came out of college. In fact, he should be able to best his career marks of 42 tackles this season, and it shouldn’t be hard to improve on zero career pass breakups as well as zero career interceptions.

His first two seasons haven’t been that encouraging, but I believe Tabor can still be a very good player. For him to break out this year wouldn’t take any eye-popping numbers, and just going by stats would be a low bar anyway. As much as stats always matter, what I’d be looking for from Tabor is more a change in attitude as much as anything else.

I want to see a guy trusting his instincts and going after interceptions, rather than waiting on a guy to catch the ball and just going for the tackle. I want to see Tabor not panic when a deep ball is thrown to his guy. I want to see him bounce back from getting burnt — because everyone does every now and then — and get right back in there and make a play. If he really has rekindled his love for football, and can find his confidence, there is no telling how big of a year this kid may have this season.

Sometimes it just takes longer for some guys to really come into their own on the field. The third year is usually the litmus test, and here is hoping Tabor finds a way to pass it this season.

Confidence level: Low