3. Jahlani Tavai
Let me start by saying the Miami Dolphins are probably the last team I’d want to face as an off-ball linebacker. Sure, you’re not being tasked with crashing into a massive running back like Derrick Henry every play, but you’re almost sure to get exposed.
Few teams in the NFL are going to make you cover as much ground, both vertically and horizontally.
And when you’re trying to cover ground against an offense with this much speed, you’ve often gotta guess where they’re going ahead of time — if you wait to know for sure, you’ll never catch up.
Tavai guessed wrong a lot, and even still found himself out of position and beat with speed when he didn’t,
But his struggles went deeper than that.
His tackling was poor. That’s something you don’t see often in a Bill Belichick defense, and not something you can afford against the Dolphins. It’s hard to get your hands on their players, but once you do you need to finish the play.
He also did a poor job setting the edge against the run, which just opens the floodgates for disaster. Keeping contain is priority number one against a run game with this much speed. It’s the cornerstone that can make or break the entire play for the defense, and in Tavai’s case it was far too often “break” last night.
It wasn’t all bad (he had a really nice TFL on the goal line in the first quarter), but he’s not enough of a playmaker to make up for being fundamentally unsound. His struggles not only put himself in bad positions, but made things a lot harder for the rest of the defense around him.
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