The next edition of our “The Philadelphia Eagles select..” series takes a look at a prospect on the other side of the Ball. The Eagles have had a glaring need at cornerback for quite sometime now, and it’s even more prominent with the vacancies left by Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin. The first round alone is littered with defensive back talent, but should the Eagles address the need with their 14th overall pick? One of the players commonly linked with the team has been Florida’s Teez Tabor. But would he be a good fit for the Eagles?
The Florida cornerback earned First Team Freshman All-American honors back in 2014 and followed that year up with two just as impressive. He led the Gators in pass defenses (10) and picks (4) in 2016, amassing 33 tackles in the process. He batted down 14 passes alongside Vernon Hargreaves in 2015 and put the unit on his back during his final year with the program.
A projected first round pick at the end of the year, Tabor saw his stock slide after an underwhelming Combine, in which the 6’0, 199 lbs, corner registered a 4.62 40-yard dash time and 9 reps at the bench. The question is, with some off-the-field concerns alongside this, is Tabor worth the 14th pick from Philadelphia?
We’ll start with his strengths..and arguably his most impressive is his instinctive persona. Playing largely in zone coverage looks during his final year, Tabor drew on all the things learned during in 2015, in which he played in the Nickel, on the outside and even at Safety at times..to become a very dangerous and instinctive corner.
In this play against Vanderbilt last season, Tabor was able jump on the receiver just as the pass was coming in, wrapping him up and cutting it dead in its tracks.
Arguably his most eyebrow raising play came against FSU. Effectively having to cover two receivers, Tabor flips is hips fluently and is able to leap up and use his prototypical length to bat down a crucial pass. The Football IQ shown here is definitely something that is present throughout Tabor’s play.
Plays the ball:
Moving directly on from that, Tabor’s style of play sees him zero in on the ball constantly. A great example of this was against LSU. Tabor swept across the field and forced the ball out of Gage’s hands in a must-make collision. The closing speed and awareness to force his hands into such a tight window were representative of what Tabor brings to the table.
Against Vandy, Tabor made a huge interception, jumping the route (not the player circled) with eagerness. Coming over the top of the route, Tabor snuck underneath and swiped the ball away from the right hand side of the field.
Against FSU, he also showcased his ball-hawk type instincts. Although he dropped the pass, Tabor used his size to get in front of the receiver, forcing him to the back of the endzone and get between the ball and the target.
Just one play later, Tabor was targeted once again. His finesse style of play and quick footwork saw him mirror the receiver perfectly before leaping over his back and forcing yet another incompletion.
Taking the top off:
In what was a predominantly zonal scheme, Tabor was able to eliminate deep routes by keeping the receiver ahead of him at all times. As seen in the play below, Tabor is a corner who wins in the heart of the route. What he may lack at the line of scrimmage, he makes up for in mirroring the footwork of opposing wideouts and ensuring he stays ahead. This makes it incredibly difficult to throw his way.
The same can be seen a little later in the game, where Tabor sticks to his receiver like glue, but also shows a quality coveted by Jim Schwartz, keeping his eyes on the quarterback. After he detected the screen pass, Tabor shut off the running lane and tracked the ball.
This is where things get a little interesting. Tabor is not an aggressive cornerback. If there is an instance where one-on-one physicality will decide the outcome, he doesn’t seem to have the “want” to put it all on the line. From coverage to tackling, the trait is one thing that really lowers his ceiling.
As you can see in the below play, Jamil Abdul-Aziz turns his back to Tabor and hauls in a ridiculous catch, but the Gators CB did very little to prevent the completion, despite being on an even playing field at the time of the completion. Playing with his back to the ball, it’s a quality that Schwartz came down hard on Jalen Mills for last year..and one that is often found in Tabor’s game.
He also tends to shy away from tackles against running backs or much more intimidating receivers. If he does go in for a tackle, it’s extremely reminiscent of what we saw from Ron Brooks in his limited 2016 snaps..sporadic. Tabor tends to swoop in low to avoid head-on or body contact, instead diving for his opponents legs..this can cause a few problems if the player can jump over the corner, or get around his tackle.
As we saw here when Dalvin Cook broke past, the implications can be severe..and it’s something that Eagles corners struggled with consistently last year.
As a direct link to this, when he’s lined up against bigger receivers, Tabor can at times look slightly overwhelmed. In the below play, Tabor gets pushed back off of his stance with ease, allowing the receiver to surge past him and break in over the middle.
In the same game and against the same wideout, Tabor again allowed his man to get inside without much of a physical fight. Say what you wish about Jalen Mills in comparison, but Mills fights at the line and is very hands-on. Tabor’s approach is based around mirroring, shadowing routes and making a play when the ball is thrown his way. The problem with that, combined with his reluctance to get physical, means bigger wideouts, especially at the NFL level could thrive on intermediate routes.
Although his performance against FSU stood out as one of his finest of the year, he still showed those same tendencies on a few different occasions, failing to jam efficiently. Although on this play, his eyes were fixed on the screen pass.
Against LSU, the narrative was still strong. Tabor’s incredibly light footwork and quick hips make him a dominant cover-cornerback, but in press..it’s rare to see him really show those shutdown traits that many place on his shoulders.
Tabor is a corner who in a cover system could easily have the same ceiling as someone like Marcus Peters. But in a system where Man-coverage and aggression is the name of the game, that ceiling will be limited. As we can see below, receivers find it a little too easy to get inside after the initial bump..which could come back to haunt Tabor as he doesn’t have the elite speed to keep up with some of the quicker wideouts in the NFL.
Especially considering that the Eagles face three very intimidating sets of wideouts twice a season in their own division, drafting Tabor would make little sense. The Eagles need a corner who can get down and dirty in the run like Malcolm Jenkins, show the aggression and confidence of Jalen Mills and fight the ball as Walter Thurmond did during his short time with the team.
There is no denying that Tabor is one of the top cornerback prospects in this year’s draft..but he isn’t a schematic fit for the Eagles ruthless Defense.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports