Jahlani Tavai is a six-foot-two-inch 250-pound linebacker out of Hawaii entering his second season with the New England Patriots. He is now looking to follow in the footsteps of former Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy. That is another top draft prospect that the Lions failed to utilize that found a home in New England. He is a second round sleeper and someone with a real chance of sneaking in on the back end of the 53-man roster.
College History For Second Round Rainbow Warrior
Tavani was a Three-sport athlete and two-star prospect. The 2019 second-round pick left the University of Hawaii the second all-time leader in school history with 390 tackles, 41 of which were for a loss. No small feat for a Divison one player.
He also had 16.5 sacks and five combined turnovers in his 47 college game college career, which only saw him play eight games his senior year. He was limited at his pro day due to injury but still managed to run a 4.86 forty and a 4.41 short shuttle.
The Consensus Pros & Cons.
Nickel Mike Linebacker
Four down player
Inside – outside versatility
Capability in pass coverage
Outside pass rush
Special teams ability
Multi-sport athlete (rugby and volleyball)
Can be out of position trying to make plays
Line to ball
Tackling needs improvement
Old school linebacker
Raw coverage skills
AC Shoulder injury
He was on the Patriots draft board in 2019, but the Lions got to him first. The typical case of a dysfunctional franchise ruining a player’s career by drafting them.
NFL Network's @MoveTheSticks on Lions second round pick Jahlani Tavai: "I was told that the Patriots love this player." pic.twitter.com/s06AY9rvfl — Brad Galli (@BradGalli) April 27, 2019
History as a Lion in Detriot
“The rookie did show some flashes of potential as both a run defender and a pass rusher. He is credited with four pressures and a hurry in his 23 blitzes, along with three quarterback hits. He also logged five tackles for a loss during his rookie season…” “Finished his rookie campaign on injured reserve [shoulder], replaced on the roster by fellow rookie Anthony Pittman,” Max Gerber Lions wire. https://lionswire.usatoday.com/2020/02/16/2019-rookie-report-jahlani-tavai/
Jordan Mellecker of Sidelion report, “Tavai is showing up every day and putting in the work and doing what the coaches want him to do for him to get better. The coaching staff still supports him and admires his physicality, hard work, effort, and acumen. Unfortunately, it is not translating well to on the field progress.” https://sidelionreport.com/2021/08/23/detroit-lions-cut-linebacker-jahlani-tavai/
Besides injury, Detroit had him bulk up to near 270 pounds trying to turn him into Rob Ninkovich, and he struggled at that weight. He needs to stay around a playing weight of 250 pounds.
“He would often play on the edge, while also also to play off-the-ball and run sideline-to-sideline at that weight. The results were as you’d expect, and many buried Tavai as a bust,” Jeremy Reismen Detriot on Lions. https://www.prideofdetroit.com/2021/6/1/22462749/jahlani-tavai-hype-detroit-lions-believable
Tavai’s Productions For New England In 2021
He slimmed back down to his college playing weight and played in 13 regular season games seeing limited action for the Patriots, buried on the depth chart but still recording 14 tackles and one fumble recovery. Tavai was important enough to be activated for and to play in the playoff game against Buffalo.
Mike Reiss of ESPN wrote in the middle of last season, “The ex-Day 2 pick is likely being evaluated for a bigger role next season…” “The Patriots have Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jamie Collins on expiring contracts, giving Tavai a chance to grow from a seldom-used defender to a more prominent player in 2022.” https://www.bostonsports.today/patriots/jahlani-tavai-on-track-for-bigger-2022-role/
With the Patriots moving on from Dont’a Hightower, who’s still a free agent, they will need another thumper to backup Bentley. The Pats trusted Tavai enough to activate him for the playoffs. He also can play outside standing up or with his hand in the dirt and never has to come off the field. And the Pats are still thin at linebacker.
With release of Terez Hall, a look at Patriots ILBs: 🏈Ja'Whaun Bentley 🏈Raekwon McMillan 🏈Cameron McGrone 🏈Mack Wilson 🏈Anfernee Jennings (flex to play edge) 🏈Jahlani Tavai 🏈Harvey Langi NOTES: Josh Uche mostly edge in '21…Safeties Peppers, Phillips, Dugger play in box — Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) May 5, 2022
Belichick sees potential in the 25-year-old and with his versatility not only on defense but special teams. And we all know Bill covets special teams as he’s one of the few coaches that keep players around with little to no other value.
Jahlani has some of the highest upsides of all the linebackers on the current roster, which should give him an outside chance of securing one of the 53 spots. He can do everything and should be listed as depth for at least three positions. Several of the Pats’ depth pieces at linebacker and end are returning from the injured reserve.
Coming off a playoff loss, This Rainbow Warrior should be that much further ahead going into the preseason camp battles in Foxboro. Don’t be surprised if he survives the roster cuts in the coming weeks.
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