The Detroit Lions signed defensive end Darryl Tapp as a free agent before the 2014 season. Although he has started only one game since joining the team, his impact goes far beyond his statistical production.

Tapp, a 31-year-old veteran of the league, took fellow defensive end Devin Taylor under his wing in 2015. Taylor trained with his experienced teammate and became as close as a family member, resulting in a breakout season.

Tapp explained his relationship with Taylor, who is five years his junior.

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Via ESPN's Michael Rothstein:

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. 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.

After two quiet seasons to start his career, Taylor exploded in his third year. He recorded seven sacks from a reserve role, trailing only Ezekiel Ansah (14.5) for the team lead. The 6-foot-7, 275-pound defensive end also recorded 35 tackles (28 solo, four for losses), one forced fumble and one defended pass.

Taylor was voted the team's most improved player, and he credits Tapp for helping him actualize some of his previously untapped potential.


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. 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.

Tapp is about to become a free agent, and he has only contributed 2.5 sacks over the past two seasons. If the Lions let his contract expire this offseason, they'll lose a valuable leader in the locker room.

Taylor, on the other hand, is entering a contract year. With another strong season, he could earn himself a big extension and form a terrifying pass-rush tandem with Ansah for the foreseeable future.

Can Taylor take the next step without Tapp pushing him? The Lions should put careful consideration into this question.