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Tavai: 'We're Tired of Being at the Bottom of Our Division'

Jahlani Tavai is tired of the Detroit Lions finishing in last place in the NFC North.

Jahlani Tavai was arguably the worst player on defense for the Lions a season ago, and was also one of the worst linebackers in the NFL. 

As a result, the skeptics have certainly been loud this offseason regarding whether the 2019 second-round pick can turn things around, going into his third season in the league. 

And, now there's a new coaching staff in Motown, led by head coach Dan Campbell, that will be tasked with saving the Hawaii product's career. 

All the while, one item has been at the top of Tavai's mind: Getting out of last place in the NFC North. 

The Lions have finished in last place in the division in each of Tavai's first two NFL seasons, with a 3-12-1 mark in 2019 followed by a 5-11 finish in 2020. 

The 6-foot-2, big-bodied linebacker talked about all the losing he's endured since entering the league and wanting to get past it in his media session with members of the Detroit media Thursday. 


"We're tired of being at the bottom of our division," Tavai told reporters. "You know, you can feel it in the team meetings, just the vibes that our staff is bringing to us. We all have that chip on our shoulder, and the guys that we're bringing in, as well, just really creates good competition for everybody. So, thank goodness that myself and everybody in this locker room are huge competitors, and none of us are going to shy away from the greatness and being as great as we can be to help this organization win its first ever Super Bowl." 

Speaking of the new staff, the defensive plays will be called this season by a first-time defensive coordinator in Aaron Glenn, who spent time on Sean Payton's staff in New Orleans, along with Campbell.  

Tavai, who has cut his weight down to 247 pounds -- 21 pounds lighter than his heaviest reported playing weight from just a few months ago -- has caught the eye of Glenn so far in Detroit's Organized Team Activities that opened up this week. 

"Tavai is looking really, really good right now,” Glenn said Thursday. “He’s moving well. So, he’s another guy that’s catching my eye, as far as guys that can run.” 

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It's impressive to hear that about Tavai, a player who wasn't viewed as one of the most fleet of foot at his position in previous seasons. 

"We challenged him, as far as the weight that we wanted him to come back at,” Glenn said. “That’s the measure of discipline, when you tell a player, ‘This is what I want you at,’ and you see him come back and he’s there. That’s the first thing. The second thing is his movement. To be as big as he is -- he did lose a lot of weight -- but to be as big as he is, he can move fairly well. So, that kind of surprised us. And, I don’t want to say totally surprised, but it was good to see a man of that size that can move like that, and then his ability to bend and be able to get out of cuts. That was pretty impressive." 

And, it can all be attributed to Tavai being dedicated to getting himself in shape for playing in a new defensive scheme that will be predicated on playing much quicker than the one which was implemented by the Matt Patricia regime. 

Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson, who was also part of the organization's 2019 draft class, has seen first-hand Tavai's commitment to transforming his body -- a transformation which has included Tavai eating a healthier daily diet. 

"I went to L.A. a few times this offseason and hung out with Jahlani, and he was serious about it,” Hockenson said. “I can lose and gain weight pretty easily. Goes on quick, goes away quick. But, he’s not one of those guys. One night every few weeks, I was out in L.A., and I’d get a little dessert. And Jahlani was like, ‘Nah man, I can’t have that.’ I’m like, ‘C’mon man!’” 

Now, Tavai and the Lions are hoping that the linebacker's weight loss and cleaner diet lead to better results on the field for the 24-year-old in 2021. 

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