Upon Further Review: New Panthers safety Tre Boston

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

I, like many fans I'm sure, didn't know much about Tre Boston when the Carolina Panthers decided to select him in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The resulting reactions from the fans were mixed to say the least, so I decided to watch some film and form my own opinion of the guy. Here's some of my notes from further review.

I watched what I could find on Youtube of Tre Boston, the games I watched are as follows:

Vs. Duke (2012)

Vs. Miami (2012)

vs. Virginia (2012)

I also watched various highlight films, but game tape was minimal on Youtube. I honestly didn't know a whole lot about Boston other than that he played for North Carolina in college.

Run Support

This is definitely the weakest part of Boston's game. It's not that Boston isn't willing to stick his nose in and play the run, he's just very inconsistent to the point of MADDENING in his tackling form. He takes good angles in the box, and can come downhill quick to make a tackle. Once he's diagnosed what is happening on a play, he's quick to react and commit to a certain path to the ball carrier. When he does decide to wrap up and form tackle, he does an excellent job of slowing down the ball carrier and allowing the rest of the defense to come help out. He's also a solid open field tackler, he seemed to never allow a ball carrier to get by him if it's a "tackle him or they score" situation.

There are however a few problems with Boston's game. For one, sometimes he would just go for an arm tackle and flat out miss the ball carrier or get dragged. Oftentimes it seemed as though he wasn't entirely sure what was happening in the play before the back got to him, resulting in a poor tackle effort. He missed several tackles against Duke by arm tackling or trying to shoe string tackle a guy when it wasn't necessary. He also missed an easy sack by trying to grab at the quarterback rather than wrap him up. In addition, he sometimes is late on breaking down for a tackle, resulting in the ball carrier running by him or brushing off the arm tackle. He also has a problem with going for the ankle tackle when it isn't necessary. He is pretty good at taking out the legs of a ball carrier and he does a great job of open field tackling, but he would often get caught trying to take out the ball carrier's knees during interior runs. Many plays if he had just gotten in the guys way it would have resulted in a better outcome to the play. And my final beef with him (which could have been just one game) was that he was sometimes a little ginger about making contact. He would come down in the box, but instead of attacking the ball carrier when he had the chance he would wait for the back to come to him and try and bring him down by his legs. It didn't happen all the time, but two of the three games I watched it appeared that Boston needed to settle into the game first before he flew around in the run game.

Boston is a high effort player, you can see he's willing to stick his nose in on run support and is often right in the middle of the plays. However, Boston also seems to suffer from the kill-shot complex that a lot of NFL safeties have. There were many times where he came roaring in for a big hit rather than trying to form tackle, and he often missed the tackle as a result. Sometimes, he even had what would be considered a kill-shot lined up and he ended up just whiffing on his own. He's make contact but fail to bring the ball carrier down. Sometimes he can lay the wood, but in the NFL he's going to need to get into the habit of form tackling. In a defense such as the Panthers', he's going to have success wrapping up as the entire defense swarms the ball carrier. I believe all of these things can be coached out of him, as Steve Wilks did a great job with Robert Lester and Melvin White last season.

Pass Coverage

This is where I can see Boston making his mark in the NFL. Boston is very good at diagnosing where the quarterback is going to throw the ball and makes excellent breaks as a result. He excelled at the single high safety, the deep half safety, and the deep third safety alignments.  He's good at staying with his man and reading the quarterback's eyes, and was able to undercut many routes and either make an interception or at the very least disrupt the catch. He's extremely decisive and wastes very little movement when he's figured out where he needs to be to stop a reception. In addition, Boston has very good ball skills. He made quite a few outstanding interceptions where a lot of defensive backs may not have even come close to a pick. I saw one handed interceptions, highest point picks, and toe taps. He's got good instincts and awareness in pass coverage, and is quick to recognize the direction the pass is going, making interceptions all the way across the field. He also was very good about bringing the receiver down should they actually make the catch.

Many UNC fans might groan at the plays where Boston is pictured running after the receiver into the endzone. Based on the plays I saw, I counted five times in the tape where the cornerback either bit on a play action fake or just flat out got beat, leaving Boston to chase the receiver into the endzone. However, Boston wasn't very good at recovering should he make a mistake. In addition, Boston has no business as a cornerback in the NFL even though he has solid experience at it. He wasn't very good at press coverage from what I saw, and in the Virginia game he almost gave up a touchdown by letting the receiver run right by him. He missed the jam completely.


To me, once you get outside of the top 3 rounds you look for guys who give high effort and who can be coached. One knock on Boston was immaturity issues, which remain to be seen. But from a purely football standpoint, I liked his effort on most plays, even if he wasn't effective against the run all the time. Boston clearly cares about what is going on and doesn't seem to fear contact short of a couple isolated incidents, and for me that's a big one for late round prospects. Boston has the potential to be a ball hawk in this league and his skill set complements our front seven. A lot of his issues can be coached out of him, but things like instincts and play diagnosis can't, at least not quickly. I believe Boston will be able to contribute his rookie year if he's given the opportunity.

What are your thoughts, Panthers fans?

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