The New England Patriots made one roster move on Saturday ahead of their Week 3 matchup with the New Orleans Saints. Per ESPN’s Field Yates the Patriots elevated linebacker Jahlani Tavai to the 53-man roster.
Tavai was signed last month after a disappointing run with the Detroit Lions. Detroit drafted Tavai while current Belichick advisor, former Patriots defensive coordinator and Lions head coach Matt Patricia was in Motown. The Lions thought Tavai would be an excellent interior linebacker in the mold of Dont’a Hightower, but it didn’t work out as planned.
Landing with the Patriots is a second chance to succeed under a similar defensive system and environment.
Jahlani Tavai is Hoping to Resurrect His Career in New England
Kyle Meinke of MLive wrote candidly about the failed Tahvai experiment with the Lions shortly after the linebacker signed with the Patriots.
Patricia’s defense never worked out for the Lions, although there were some promising signs of progress in the back half of his first season in 2018. But Patricia still wanted a big, thumping linebacker to anchor the middle of his system, and Tavai caught his eye during the draft process, a thick tackling machine from Hawaii that Detroit took 43rd overall despite major questions about his speed and coverage ability. Tavai proved to be a major bust in Detroit. He struggled when pressed onto the field as a rookie, then again last season, when he finished as one of the 10 worst linebackers in the league according to ProFootballFocus. Then he lost the coach whose system he was supposed to anchor, casting further doubt on his future in Detroit. The Lions gave him a lot of quality opportunities to try to make the transition into Aaron Glenn’s system, and Tavai worked hard at it, including dropping about 25 pounds to try to improve his speed. But in the end, the fit didn’t work in training camp or the preseason. He blew coverage assignments in each of the first two exhibitions, one of which led to an uncontested touchdown, and Detroit opted to go with linebackers Jamie Collins, Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Anthony Pittman instead.
Tavai is still an intriguing talent and it is safe to say he’s been at least a little impressive if the Patriots are elevating him so quickly.
What Role Will Tavai Play With the Patriots?
It is possible Tavai doesn’t see the field on Sunday? Sure it is.
He will dress but could perhaps only be in for a few special teams snaps. It’s also possible he heads right back to the practice squad after Sunday’s game. However, the Patriots have dealt with some injuries at linebacker, though most have been to outside guys like Matt Judon, Josh Uche and Kyle Van Noy.
Still, the Patriots like many of their linebackers to be able to play different roles. Depth across the board could get thin over the course of the season. If that’s the case for multiple weeks, Tavai might have an opportunity to make a lasting impression.