Lions' defensive line, other than Haloti Ngata and Ziggy Ansah, are unknowns

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The names are gone. So are most of the high draft picks and a lot of the production the Detroit Lions were used to the past four seasons.

In letting Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley and Andre Fluellen go to other teams for various reasons this offseason, it meant the Lions would have to rejigger the interior of the defensive line. And while the team did make multiple additions, it left them with a base of players who are not commonly known other than Haloti Ngata and Ezekiel Ansah.

"I feel like we're going to be the best unknown group of guys out there," defensive end Darryl Tapp said. "We have, you brought in Haloti. He's an All-Pro guy. We still have Ziggy. Ziggy is going to be an All-Pro guy this year. And the rest of us, we're the most unknown knowns out here in the league.

"So we take that as kind of a chip on our shoulders. We came out here to get better. To push ourselves and we have the ultimate confidence in coach [Teryl Austin] and coach [Jim] Caldwell and the whole gamut to put us in the right position to make plays."

So what did Tapp mean by the most unknown known players out there? To simplify, he means: People know the names of the players the Lions brought in -- Tyrunn Walker and Gabe Wright -- but they don't know anything about them other than Wright played at Auburn and Walker played somewhat sparingly in New Orleans.

It is between those two players and another known unknown in second-year pro Caraun Reid that the Lions will look to as the production replacers for the 22 sacks Detroit lost on its defensive line last season. Suh had 10.5. George Johnson had six. Mosley had 2.5. Fluellen had two and Fairley had one.

Tapp said the "unknown knowns" is not something the defensive linemen have talked about at all. It's something he came up with on his own that he hopes might catch on. This, as much as anything Tapp will do on the field, is what he does for the Lions.

He's the energy guy of an otherwise fairly laid back defensive line group. That hasn't changed with the restructuring of the interior of the line, either. It was one of the things the Lions wanted from Tapp when they brought him in before the 2014 season.

"Before he came in, Jim Washburn said to us, 'Hey, if we sign this guy, let me just tell you something. The guy is a force multiplier,' " Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "Nobody quite knew exactly what he meant.

"Certainly we understand the term, but it came to fruition when he walked into the building. Guys gravitate toward him."

Tapp considers himself an "unknown known" himself. He's bounced between four teams in his career. He's played defensive end, defensive tackle in a pinch and, for one season in Washington, outside linebacker.

Yet he's lasted in the NFL for nine seasons and is entering 2015 still feeling like he has to prove himself.

"Everybody in our D-line group has a chip on our shoulder, even Haloti, being an All-Pro and whatnot. They are saying he's over the hill now," Tapp said. "So we all have a huge chip on our shoulder right now to continue to get better and continue to push each other and to work.

"We have something that we want to accomplish this year as a D-line and as a team."

What that is? Tapp won't say. But it would be easy to surmise it could have something to do with wiping away the unknown part of Tapp's "unknown knowns" statement.