Lions’ Tabor teases playmaking ability, stays humble

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — It was just one play during Tuesday’s OTA practice, but it was a window into what the Detroit Lions envisioned when they drafted cornerback Teez Tabor in the second round.

As wide receiver Marvin Jones, the team’s best vertical threat, ran a deep route down the left sideline, quarterback Matthew Stafford heaved a bomb looking to connect for a big gain.

But Tabor was in position, camping out in Jones’ back pocket. As the trajectory culminated within reach of its intended target, the young corner leaped up, knocking Jones to the ground in the process, to secure his first interception of the offseason program.

“It was successful because one, he was in position, two, he’s long and tall and three, he’s got really good ball skills,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “It was all good stuff. He did a good job closing out the receiver and he located the ball, which is really important.”

Teammate Darius Slay called it a confidence-building play. And for Tabor, it was a fruit of the labor he’s put in his first several weeks with the Lions.

“Oh man, yeah,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to get my hands on a couple balls, trying as hard as I can. Still some things I need to work on, but that was a good play.”

And while he earned the right to revel in the moment — making an impressive play against one of the team’s best receivers — Tabor opted for humility.

“To be honest, I haven’t done anything well,” Tabor said. “I made one good play, but that’s about it. I have a lot of work to do.

“I had one good play against (Jones), but he had about 15 against me.”

Each failure has been a learning experience Tabor has embraced. He’s constantly seeking out veteran input on how he can improve his technique, and it’s not just from his fellow defensive backs.

Last week, while covering Golden Tate during a red-zone drill, the receiver easily juked free of the rookie for a touchdown. But it was the moments after that mattered more as Tate put his arm around Tabor and instructed him on how he won the route, providing valuable insight on how to defend the play in the future.

“He wants me to do well so we can win games,” Tabor said. “Now that I know that, I know what I can do different.”

The Lions went into this offseason looking for defensive playmakers, guys who could help generate more game-altering turnovers. The hope is Tabor can be one of those guys. On Tuesday, he showed some of the first signs he can be.