Florida Gators football: CB Teez Tabor’s instincts ensure NFL spot

I loved watching Florida Gators cornerback Teez Tabor play college football. He stepped beside Vernon Hargreaves III as a freshman and has been shutting down opposing passing games ever since.

His three years in Gainesville, Fla., coincided with a dominating defense. The Florida Gators allowed an average QB passer rating of only 104.2 and just 180 total yards per game without a dominant pass rush or a great offense.

Tabor contributed heavily, as Gators fans have pointed out. Stat of the Night – @_31Flavorz had a PBU or an INT on 26.5% of his targets in 2016… That’s the best mark in the 2016 draft class! #DBU pic.twitter.com/lNyYqRmgsB This need to defend Tabor arose after he ran a 4.62 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Tabor followed with times in the mid-4.7 range during his pro day. Experts proclaimed he had run himself out of the first round of the NFL draft.

Asked about his draft stock, a confident Tabor said, “Just push play,” referring to the game film. And so I did. Florida Gators CB Jalen Tabor: Film Study

Tabor does not possess elite speed. Tennessee made that clear. The color commentator noted that Tabor slipped. That’s what allowed the wide receiver to beat him. But Tabor is playing 1-on-1 coverage, and he didn’t jam or redirect the receiver at the line.

For someone without elite speed, Tabor will have to lean on hand technique in the NFL. Florida played a ton of man coverage in 2016, and Tabor rarely jammed his receiver.

Tabor also sometimes struggles to play with physicality. Sometimes he seems to avoid contact, particularly against larger blockers. He dives at the runners’ feet to make a tackle, or waits for his teammates to arrive. On this first play (above), instead of charging an immediate handoff, Tabor hangs back. Safety Marcell Harris sheds a block and makes the tackle. Tabor may have been cutting off an angle, but he also seems to avoid contact. In this second example, safety Chauncey Gardner makes an interception. Tabor enthusiastically waves to Gardner and has a real chance to spring him further. Instead, Tabor sidesteps the offensive lineman (No. 54), eliminating the chance that Gardner could cut back toward the middle of the field.

There is a lot to like about Tabor. He’s instinctive, and that allows him to make plays that other corners can’t. On this play, he peels off of his deep responsibility to come back and break up the pass. This type of play can allow a corner to get beat deep, but Tabor rarely makes mistakes when he leaves an assignment. His instincts are some of the best you’ll see. Watch this play against East Carolina. Tabor’s assigned man is streaking deep. Tabor reads the quarterback’s eyes and jumps the route. Against Kentucky, Tabor the rover struck again as he jumped a wide receiver screen for an interception. It’s unfair to call this instinct. Tabor recognized the formation, which indicates that he studies film. It also means that he trusts […]