Throughout January and February, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at some of the players the Jets have signed to futures deals since the end of the season. We continue today with a look at former CFL defensive back Tevaughn Campbell.
The 25-year old Campbell is listed at 6’0” and 200 pounds and has spent the past four seasons in the CFL after having been a third round pick in the 2015 CFL draft. The Jets are the first NFL team to sign him to a contract but he’s been in mini-camp on a tryout basis for a couple of teams.
Campbell attended college at Regina, but wasn’t really regarded as a potential NFL prospect until he broke the CFL combine record by running a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash. That led to him being a third round pick in the 2015 CFL draft but also saw him attend a couple of NFL rookie camps on a tryout basis in Washington and with the Giants.
At Regina, Campbell had been a two year starter at cornerback and also returned kicks and punts. He broke up 11 passes in 20 games over his three years with the Rams.
After having not been offered a contract at the NFL level, Campbell returned to Canada and played four seasons in the CFL with three different teams. During that time, he played in 42 games and racked up 62 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also scored three touchdowns.
However, Campbell - who was also a track athlete at Regina - also started playing Rugby Sevens, where he saw some success representing Canada in international tournaments in 2016 and 2017.
The Jets signed Campbell to a futures deal after the season. He had also previously worked out for the Browns and Packers in December.
Let’s take a closer look at what Campbell brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study and divided into categories.
Aside from his 40-yard dash, which would have been top five at last year’s combine, albeit still slower than Jets’ draft pick Parry Nickerson, Campbell also posted impressive numbers in the vertical (38.5”) and broad jump (130”) at the CFL combine.
He seems to have pretty decent size and length, but might need to build up his strength to compete with NFL-level receivers.
Campbell has primarily been employed as an outside cornerback, although he’s followed his man into the slot at times. Within this role, he was employed both in press coverage and off-coverage.
Predictably, Campbell’s speed is his most useful asset in coverage, either when running deep or when closing or recovering.
You can get a sense of how he battles on this play, although he perhaps doesn’t yet show the kind of flawless technique you’d hope for from a player headed to the pros:
In off-coverage he can be susceptible to slants and crossing routes at times.
Campbell can play in a press coverage role, although he is inconsistent with his jam at times and might need to build up his strength to succeed in press coverage at the NFL level.
He does have an occasional grab-habit which is something he’s going to need to remove from his game:
Over the course of his career in Canada, Campbell has shown a good ability to make plenty of plays on the ball, including four interceptions. He also broke up 11 passes in college, including a team-leading six in 2013.
He is generally pretty good at running with a receiver on a deep downfield route and then locating the ball, although there were a few plays where he got beaten at the line and then couldn’t get his head turned in time. He’s shown a good ability to break up and even pick off contested catches though.
On this play, he read and jumped the route for a pick-six, although he almost dropped it:
Canadian Football is a more expansive game than the NFL due to the bigger fields and some of the rules, including the use of three downs instead of four. As a result, an outside cornerback will rarely play much of a role in run defense so Campbell unsurprisingly doesn’t contribute much in this area.
Here’s an example of a play where Campbell (wearing #32 here) gets blocked off the line initially, causing him to lose contain and then, although he makes the tackle, he is dragged past the first down marker:
Campbell also doesn’t show much as a tackler, often shying away from contact or throwing a shoulder at the ball carrier with poor technique. Here’s an example of a play where he was knocked off a tackle in the open field:
The opposing team’s offense seemed to deliberately exploit that weakness here on a short yardage play. Campbell had a chance to stop this short of the marker but seemed too tentative as if he was nervous about missing the tackle:
Campbell has forced two fumbles at the CFL level though.
Campbell hasn’t blitzed very often but has some good burst off the edge and did have one sack in college and this sack at the CFL level:
Special teams will be the main place where Campbell can make an impression as anyone with sub-4.4 speed has a chance to make an impact.
Campbell has nine special teams tackles in his CFL career and has also scored touchdowns on a blocked field goal and a blocked punt.
At Regina, he set school records by averaging 21.2 yards per kickoff return and 10.5 yards per punt return. He had one of each that went for more than 70 yards, but no touchdowns.
One of Campbell’s coaches in Canada referred to him as “cerebral” and praised his ability to handle assignments when they were thrown at him.
Although this touchdown was overturned by the replay booth, it’s a good example of Campbell being confused by the bunching of receivers and his momentary hesitation caused him to lose a leverage advantage:
With his return experience and his time playing Rugby Sevens, his open field running instincts are impressive so he’s a threat with the ball.
On the field, Campbell can be a demonstrative player, but he seems to be popular and his teammates have praised his work ethic in the past.
Campbell has missed some time in college and was actually traded once in the CFL by a team whose general manager specifically stated that he had concerns about Campbell’s health.
Most of his issues appear to be connected with his left shoulder, on which he had surgery in 2012. He dealt with shoulder subluxation a few years ago.
The Jets’ targeting of Campbell might ironically be linked to an outgoing coach. In Saskatchewan in 2016, Campbell was a teammate of Kacy Rodgers II. Rodgers - who spent preseason with the Jets last year - is the son of outgoing defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, who might have been involved in the decision to add him to their watchlists. He’ll now have to try and impress Gregg Williams and his staff instead.
The Jets are obviously trying to catch lightning in a bottle with this signing and Campbell does at least bring one elite trait to the table with his speed.
He’s still likely to be an extreme long-shot to make the team, but the Jets will hope he can hold up in spite of the jump in level of competition and then they might consider him coachable enough to have value as a longer-term project.