Detroit Lions: Who are the X-Factors on defense this year?

Trey Flowers, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Trey Flowers, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /
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Jahlani Tavai, Detroit Lions
Jahlani Tavai, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /


Who will separate themselves? Who will adjust and achieve in Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme? Who will be a casualty of competition on the final day of roster cuts? Who will improve a unit that was woeful last year?

The linebacker position has far more questions than answers, and far more players of similar skill sets than can possibly be accommodated once rosters need to be trimmed down. Newcomers Jamie Collins and Reggie Ragland will immediately push guys like Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones for snaps, but this is a group that has a lot of ground overall to make up, and a talent upgrade isn’t a given based on the roster (their best LB from a year ago, Devon Kennard, was released in the spring).

X-Factor – Jahlani Tavai, LB

I have no idea what to expect from Jahlani Tavai in 2020, which is fine. The thing that worries me, is that I don’t think anyone else knows what to expect from him either. I wouldn’t be shocked if he leapfrogged Davis and Jones on the depth chart and became a full time starter. However, it also wouldn’t surprise me to see him languish as a backup until his rookie contract runs out and both parties can move on.

As a rookie last year, Tavai showed great instincts, tackling, and aggression, especially right out of the gates. On the flip side, his speed is well below average and learning the position inside and out can only help you so much to negate that.

Tavai is a highly scrutinized draft pick (was considered a major reach for the second round a year ago), and making the leap to a true impact player in year two would do wonders for the linebacking corps. If not, we’d better hope that Jamie Collins is legit and Davis pulls it together.