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Camp Spotlight: Linebacker Jahlani Tavai

Position: Linebacker

Ht/Wt: 6-2, 250

College: Hawaii

Experience: 2nd season

Outlook: Tavai made his NFL debut Week 1 at Arizona last year and produced three solo tackles and 1.0 sack, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to log a sack in his NFL debut, and the first linebacker to do so since 1987. He showed an ability to make plays very early as a rookie.

The Lions used him in a lot of different ways last season, which is the expectation again this year heading into his second season. Tavai was the only rookie in the NFL to post at least 50 tackles, five tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and one interception last season.

There's a comfort level for young players that comes with having a year under their belt. The game slows down for them and they see the field better.

Tavai's lined up at every linebacker spot throughout the course of the first week of padded practices in Allen Park, and that's his true value to this defense. He has the size and skill set the Lions like at the linebacker position, and they're going to use all of those skills in a lot of different ways.

View photos from practice during Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage on Aug. 20, 2020.

Practice report: Tavai ended his rookie season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury after playing in 15 games, and it seems like the team is still kind of monitoring his reps early on.

He played some with the first-team and second-team defenses Friday, both inside and on the edge in that JACK spot. He showed some quickness and bend coming off the edge as a pass rusher in one particular team period. Don't be surprised if we see that more from him than we did his rookie season.

He was in a good spot to make a nice pretend tackle on wide receiver Kenny Golladay in a team period after Golladay caught a ball on a short crossing route coming into Tavai's zone.

Tavai spent one special teams portion of practice off to the side with veteran linebacker Christian Jones working on pass-rush moves with the dummies. Jones has played a significant amount of reps in that on-the-ball linebacker spot, and the two got some good work in on their own for about 10 minutes.

The one thing I noticed about Tavai watching him throughout practice Friday is he makes the most of his practice time, even when he isn't in a rep. When the defense was working on their own early in practice on some run fits, Tavai wasn't in the rep, but he was still standing behind the action and running through his fits.

Quotable: "At his position, specifically linebacker, there's a lot to learn at that position," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said Friday, when asked about Tavai. "Certainly the first year you're just trying to go through and make sure you know what your job is, and you can go out and execute at a high level and perform.

"As we work into Year 2, and we're trying to expand the knowledge and concepts of what the defense does and push it into some of those areas where he can understand where to help and where the different positions have to go and broaden that command of the defense.

"I think that's the biggest part of it for a linebacker is (that) you do tie together the back-end and the front-end in a manner with coverage and rush and making sure the defense is balanced and the communication and the control of that is really something with Jahlani that we're trying to push further ahead."

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