The Detroit Lions’ 43rd overall second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft has not lived up to the expectations of a true second-rounder. Former general manager, Bob Quinn’s experiment with linebacker Jahlani Tavai has failed.
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. He is one of the players to keep an eye on as being on the roster bubble and potentially not making the 53-man team.
He is struggling in a lot of facets of the game, and it appears the lack of fundamentals is a huge contributing factor. For instance, missed tackles, getting stiff-armed, pursuing bad angles, and busted coverages allowing for touchdowns are what really has people fuming.
The pre-draft prospect grades and analysis have been accurate with Tavai, so far. For example, back in 2019 many analysts and scouts were saying he was projected to go in the fourth or fifth round, but in typical Bob Quinn fashion, he reached and selected him in the second round.
Some weaknesses identified throughout the combine and draft process where his top speed is average, he is undersized, he is wild and out of control versus being explosive, he needs to play off blocks faster, he struggles in man coverage, his tackle technique needs some work and more.
Based on the film from the 2019 and 2020 seasons and the first two preseason games of the 2021 season thus far, it is apparent if Tavai wants to make the 53-man roster he will need to find a groove on special teams because as of now, fourth-round rookie Derrick Barnes is outplaying Jahlani and has been very impressive so far in practice and in the preseason.