At one point in the first quarter Sunday in Tampa Bay, rookie cornerback Teez Tabor found himself one-on-one with Bucs Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans near the goal line. Everybody in that stadium and watching on television knew what was coming next.
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston lofted a pass in Evans' direction, but Tabor had tight coverage and made a nice play to get his hands in on Evans' arms to knock the ball free.
Tabor saw a significant uptick in his defensive snaps Sunday. After playing a season-high 17 snaps on the road in Baltimore the week prior, Tabor played 39 snaps in Tampa Bay, both on the outside and in the slot, which came out to more than half of all the snaps on defense.
"Yeah, he's been consistently playing a little bit more and more each game," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said Monday. "Kind of depends on who we play, what packages we're using. It depends on how much he gets an opportunity to play."
Tabor, who was a healthy scratch for six games at the beginning of the season, has come a long way in a short time.
"It's definitely where I want to be," Tabor said of the one-on-one situation Sunday with Evans. "It's just fun being out there with my teammates. Celebrating moments like that with Quandre (Diggs), when he got an interception. Slay, when he got his fifth pick. GQ (Glover Quin), when he knocked the ball out.
"Slow and steady wins the race. Since I've been here, I've just come in every day and worked hard and get my job done and things will start falling in the right way for you. That's all it is."
Tabor was targeted five times in the 23 snaps he was in coverage vs. Tampa Bay, allowing three catches for 46 yards, according to Pro Football Focus stats.
"He was out there and did a pretty good job for a young guy, and I think you'll see that he'll continue to progress," Caldwell said.
Starting cornerback Nevin Lawson missed practice Tuesday, so Tabor could be in line for more reps Saturday at Ford Field against Chicago, depending on how the week goes for Lawson.
The Lions have been fortunate to have good depth and great health pretty much all year at the cornerback spot, which has allowed them to bring their rookie cornerback along at a good pace.
"I think those guys are a lot more realistic than the expectations that the media poses upon them in this league," Caldwell said. "You just look around, there's not a whole lot of rookies first of all that are playing significant snaps and it's hard to do, it's difficult.
"So, that's a normal progression is what he's taking right now, sometimes you don't see rookies that don't take the field at all during the course of their first year. But he's a smart guy, works at it and he's making good progress."
Tabor's ability to play both inside and outside, depending on the matchup and the package, is one of the big reasons for his increase in snaps.
"Coach made a statement the other day," Tabor said. "He said, 'When he sees trash he picks it up. You be the janitor. The more you can do the better.'
"You know, you help the team in that way. It's better for the team that way. The more you can do helps the team."
Running back Ameer Abdullah thought it was possible he could have played Sunday in Tampa Bay, even though he was deactivated by the team.
"Yeah, probably," Abdullah said Tuesday when asked if he thought he could have played. "That's a coach's call. That's never in my hands. If the coaches felt like it's the best direction, and maybe they know something I don't. I'm always going to trust that and follow behind the leader of this team (Caldwell)."
Abdullah was limited in practice all week with a neck injury. Caldwell said both after the game and later Monday that Abdullah's inactive status was a health decision, and not one based on performance.
Abdullah leads the team in carries (150) and yards (505), but is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry on the year.
Abdullah said his confidence remains high, and he's ready to go this week, if needed. He also stood up and took the blame for Detroit's 32nd ranked rushing offense, though Detroit's woes in that department obviously don't fall strictly on his shoulders.
"It's always going to fall on me," Abdullah said. "And rightfully so. Always have to be productive and the good thing is we have three more games and there's a lot to gain these three games with everything still out there for us to get. It's important for me to be at my best."
SWANSON IN CONCUSSION PROTOCOL
Center Travis Swanson missed the last five games of the 2016 season after suffering a concussion. Caldwell announced Tuesday that Detroit's starting center is back in the concussion protocol, and wasn't going to practice Tuesday after suffering concussion-like symptoms after Sunday's game in Tampa Bay.
"After the game, he went to the doctors," Caldwell said. "He was exhibiting some issues, and they evaluated him, and thus have put him (in the concussion protocol) in which he's in today. You probably won't see him out at practice this afternoon."
The Lions had a similar situation occur earlier this year when T.J. Lang started displaying concussion-like symptoms prior to a practice a couple days after finishing a game. Lang missed one game due to that concussion.
If Swanson can't go Saturday vs. Chicago, Graham Glasgow could again shift over to center, and the Lions would find a replacement at left guard.