Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia isn’t one to discuss injuries very often, especially right after they actually happen. So that’s why it is particularly surprising—and troubling—that the Lions head coach spoke about the shoulder injury to Lions second-round pick Jahlani Tavai after Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos.
“Jahlani’s going to be out for a while,” Patricia said in his post-game press conference. “We’re going to get it evaluated when we get back. That was really unfortunate for us. He’s a tough kid. He came and made a good hit on the sideline, and—you know—it just happens.”
Tavai was injured on a play early in the second quarter when Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay took a run towards the Lions’ sideline. Tavai pursued Lindsay from the opposite side of the field and took a full-extension leap towards the Broncos running back, forcing him out of bounds, but sending himself crashing down to the ground. The Lions initially listed him questionable to return with a shoulder injury but soon after downgraded him to out.
With Christian Jones and Jarrad Davis already on injured reserve, the Lions had to resort to playing Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Steve Longa—two players that are known more as special team contributors—for the majority of the game on defense.
“Those are hard when you lose your inside linebacker, from that standpoint,” Patricia said. “I thought Jalen and Steve tried to do a good job in that aspect. They don’t necessarily have the same experience or plays numbers that those other guys have had out there. There was a lot moving on the fly there with those guys, but I thought they handled everything well.”
For Tavai, though no official decision has been made about Sunday’s finale against the Packers, his season will likely end as a moderate success. He’ll finish with 58 tackles, 2.0 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble in 15 games played and six starts. That’s certainly something to build on as Tavai potentially grows into a more significant role next season, as long as this injury doesn’t set back his development for 2020.