Lions rookie corner Teez Tabor gets schooled early

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Teez Tabor

Allen Park — As the long pass dropped from the sky into the waiting arms of Jared Abbrederis for a 35-yard touchdown, Detroit Lions rookie cornerback Teez Tabor was in a familiar position, trailing behind the receiver, helplessly out of position to make a play on the ball. 

Tabor continued a few strides out of the back of the end zone and looked up to the sky, clearly frustrated by some of his early struggles.

“I’m frustrated anytime anybody catches a pass on me,” Tabor said. “That’s just how I play, that’s just who I am — I get mad when people catch passes.”

A cornerback is at a significant disadvantage against a receiver in a one-on-one drill, but more than any place on a football field, it’s a situational matchup capable of playing itself out multiple times each Sunday. There’s a reason they call it playing on an island.

College quarterbacks found Tabor’s island nearly impenetrable, but that hasn’t been the case during his first NFL training camp. Before Abbrederis got behind him for the touchdown, the receiver spun the rookie around on an intermediate route and fellow rookie Kenny Golladay also scored on a deep throw. 

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Tabor’s struggles are not unusual. 

“There’s not a guy that you can’t name that has not had ups and downs,” Caldwell said. “It’s not unusual, particularly when you’re coming in from college and into this level. There’s going to be some ups and downs. If they’re all ups, there’s something wrong. I don’t see anything different from him in terms of what I would normally expect.”

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When asked if he’s had more ups or downs this camp, Tabor needed a second to think about it. After initially saying more ups, he adjusted his answer to 50-50. 

Even with the early struggles, he’s staying composed. 

“Just knowing it going it in, it’s a transition,” Tabor said. “For a young guy, there’s going to be ups and downs, but you take them all the same.”

There’s naturally a higher level of expectations for a second-round draft pick like Tabor, but it’s easy to forget how teammate Darius Slay also struggled as a rookie. 

Slay, who like Tabor played in the SEC, was given a starting job coming out of his first training camp, but was quickly yanked for the role in favor of veteran Rashean Mathis after some early-season struggles. It wasn’t until Slay’s second season that we began to see more the talented player the Lions awarded a four-year, $48 million extension last offseason. 

Barring injury, Tabor won’t have to worry about being thrust into a starting role to begin this season. He’s likely to open the year behind Slay, Nevin Lawson and potentially Johnson Bademosi on the depth chart.

Twitter: @justin_rogers