In helping Devin Taylor, Darryl Tapp adhered to NFL's 'circle of life'

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Darryl Tapp cared. It starts there.

Devin Taylor's improved production in 2015 with the Detroit Lions began over a season earlier and it started with a move that likely barely registered to him.

The Lions signed Tapp in free agency before the 2014 season. Lions coaches understood the effect Tapp's positivity and energy had on younger players. Soon after signing him, ex-Lions defensive line coach Jim Washburn gave him scouting reports on every defensive lineman from Ndamukong Suh down to Taylor.

Washburn gave Tapp personality traits, strengths, weaknesses and hinted where he could help. Taylor had potential. He just needed someone to nudge him to realize it. That someone became Tapp.

“We gravitated toward one another as far as workouts and stuff like that and then we went from there, putting words of wisdom into him,” Tapp said. “I felt like my wife met him and it definitely went to another level because my wife pretty much adopted him as a little brother.

“Every success he has now, I’m happy like I’m doing it because I know the work he put into it.”

Tapp also knows the time invested. Tapp and Taylor worked out together last offseason, the veteran giving the younger player tips on the field and off -- much like what Tapp received when he entered the league with Seattle in 2006.

He’d provide on-field suggestions and off-field understanding, motivation and pep talks. It may sound hokey, but it was important to Taylor. At the time he still needed to prove to himself that he belonged in the NFL.

“Any player, honestly, when you’re first coming in, if you don’t know and you don’t have a veteran guy like Tapp in front of you to kind of push you all the way to the point where you think you’re about to break and somehow manage to keep going kind of thing,” Taylor said. “It’s little stuff here to get to a positive mind frame.

“You have to be level-headed because you can’t get too high or too low. If you get too low on yourself, you go into a little shell.”

That happened to Taylor during 2014. He lost a spot to George Johnson. He played in every game, but only had 216 snaps, 15 tackles and one sack. Tapp constantly talked with him and told him of similar struggles he had.

Tapp told him if he focused on the smaller things of improvement, the bigger plan of more playing time would eventually come. It was the message throughout the 2014 season and then last offseason.

With Johnson in Tampa Bay, Taylor inherited a larger role in the Lions' defensive line rotation in 2015. The role he was concerned about turned into a definitive one.

He played more snaps (522) than his first two seasons combined (504). He had more tackles and sacks (35 and 7) than his first two years total (29 and 3.5).

It allowed him to show he had the physical skills and mental understanding to be in the NFL. It put him in a position to be a potential starter in 2016.

“It all starts with believing in yourself,” Taylor said. “Unless you believe in yourself, you can’t really do much. So you start to believe in it more and more and you take in everything, coaching-wise and all that.

“You put all that into one goal and then it works and you’re like, ‘Hey.'"

As in hey, I can play in the NFL. Hey, I can be a starter. And hey, I definitely had help along the way from a veteran who had no problem helping out: Tapp.

“Continue to pass along, man,” Tapp said. “It’s the circle of life in the NFL.”