Lions Coach Calls Struggling Starter ‘Great Piece’ for Defense

Jahlani Tavai

Getty Jahlani Tavai on the field before a Lions game.

The Detroit Lions have had and up and down run of things with linebacker Jahlani Tavai the last few seasons, and that’s putting it nicely.

Ever since being a second-round pick in 2019, Tavai has disappointed more often than he has been on the field and excelling. That’s led to him becoming a lightning-rod for fans, who are very critical of his play for good reason.

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The slate appears to be clean with Tavai as he transitions to a new staff, however. Speaking this past week, linebackers coach Mark DeLone was asked about the linebacker and provided a pretty candid response. As he said, he’s excited to be able to coach Tavai, who has come to the mix in shape.

This admission from the staff might stun plenty of fans, especially folks who aren’t sure if Tavai has a future with the team. He’s looked out of place with the Lions the last few years on the field and has increasingly taken on the look of a bust relative to his high draft position.

Right now, though, the team looks to be set on giving him a chance.

Lions Linebacker Depth in 2021

One thing working into Tavai’s favor with the new staff could be the fact that the Lions don’t have a ton of depth at linebacker. They’ve made a few additions in Derrick Barnes and Alex Anzalone, but as a whole, they have not chosen to add much this offseason at the spot while subtracting plenty. Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones were allowed to walk, which could mean the team wants to get more of a look at Tavai before declaring the project over with.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean Tavai is completely out of the woods. Far from it, actually. By the time training camp rolls around, there could be an intense competition for snaps, so it will be interesting to see whether or not the team still believes in Tavai at that point. For the player, though, the early signs have to be encouraging that the staff is at least willing to see what he can do.

Tavai’s Career Stats

So far the last few seasons, Tavai has done a bit of everything for the Lions and has been a jack of all trades but a master of none. He’s collected 116 tackles, 2 sacks and 1 fumble recovery coming into the 2021 offseason. Known mostly for his hair, Tavai has not made a ton of big plays for Detroit the last few seasons and has been an up and down player who has needed to show more consistency.

Will he get the chance to do so in Detroit? The jury is still out, but it’s clear the new staff is going to give him every chance to show that he belongs and can turn over a new leaf. Whether that’s right or wrong will be left up for the fans to debate.

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