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Can Jahlani Tavai Go From Backup To Starter To Help The Redskins?

Hogs Haven takes a look at 2019 NFL Draft prospects who could contribute to the Redskins

NCAA Football: Navy at Hawaii Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Jahlani Tavai, LB
School: Hawaii | Conference: Mountain West
College Experience: Senior | Age: 22?
Height / Weight: 6-2 / 250 lbs
Projected Draft Status: 3rd Round
NFL Comparison: Devon Kennard

College Statistics

Player Overview

Jahlani Tavai was a 2-star prospect from Manhattan Beach, California. Hawaii was the only division I school that offered him a scholarship though Tavai has interest in USC, Washington, and Arizona. He started his career as a freshman at outside linebacker for the Rainbow Warriors and quickly because one of their most prolific players on defense in recent memory. He broke out his sophomore season when he moved to inside linebacker and was awarded All-Mountain West first team honors. He continued that production and success in his junior season and was named the team’s defensive MVP for the year. During the offseason before his senior year he was arrested along with a teammate for getting into a fight at a nightclub. It is alleged that Tavai and his teammate went after a man in the club who had punched a former Hawaii football player and then who pushed his girlfriend down on the floor. It would have been a misdemeanor assault charge (I don’t know if they were formally charged or not). As a consequence Tavai was held out of team offseason activities and suspended for the 2018 season opener. Still he was able to put together another solid season where he played both SAM linebacker and inside. He was invited to the combine but was unable to fully participate because of a shoulder injury he was recovering from that he sustained earlier on in the season. Still its evident on film that Tavai has just about all the athleticism you need to be successful at the next level. He is considered to be a highly underrated linebacker prospect who could work in several types of defensive schemes in the NFL.


  • Great size, speed, and athleticism for the position.
  • Highly productive player with some versatility. He can play outside or inside, play the run or rush the passer, and stick with athletic TE’s and RB’s in coverage as well. Will fit best in some 4-3 schemes as a SAM who primary responsibility is covering the TE and stopping the run. Will also fit best as a MIKE ILB in a 3-4 where can so those same things and he also wouldn’t come off the field in sub packages.
  • Shows good laterally speed, agility and overall range of motion. Sideline to sideline ability is there. Prolific and textbook tackler. Has some pass rush ability playing inside or outside and can create pressure with his speed. Has some pass rush moves from his time outside and makes use of his swat and swim so that OL can’t get their hands on him.
  • Natural feel for both positions and instincts serve him well in the middle as he knows how to navigate and get to his spot in the scrum. Read and react ability is good. Awareness is good and looks like he has a strong football IQ as he seems to know whats going on beyond his position. Knows how to diagnose play action, knows when the QB is thinking of taking off, knows when he needs to bail in coverage etc.


  • Rehabbing from shoulder injury for a while now and hasn’t been able to log hard numbers to confirm whats on tape. Missed the opportunity to do so at the Senior Bowl, Combine, and his Pro Day.
  • Past arrest will likely have come up in the interview process for him. Needs to assure teams of no more club fights.
  • Needs more attention to detail with his overall technique when rushing the passer, tackling, in coverage etc. You can see certain things like him going for the strip, or turning his head to locate the ball but he needs to take next steps to convert those things into big plays otherwise he might have a clear ceiling in the league.

Let’s see his work:

More Jahlani Tavai videos

How He Would Fit On The Redskins

Now that the Reuben Foster situation has entered a stage of clarity if everything goes well the Redskins have less of a need for an immediate starting linebacker. Based on whispers the Redskins would like Shaun Dion-Hamilton to take a step forward. The team also has Mason Foster for some reason. While the need for an immediate starter may have been lessened the Redskins still need an influx of youth and athleticism at the position as a lot could change based on injury or other circumstance. This is a great draft to add middle linebacker talent to the team and I think Tavai would be a good addition to the group and pretty good insurance against any unfortunate circumstances with the players already on the roster. I really want Mason Foster off the team, that’s no secret, the Redskins can get a better athlete, a younger player, a cheaper player, and a player with a higher ceiling at the position and make him find work elsewhere. Tavai has the skill set to stay on the field for all 3 downs and can offer improvement at the position.