- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He tried something different for a season, thinking even though he had been a defensive end for years, the transition to playing outside linebacker might work.
After a one-year stint with Washington, Darryl Tapp decided he needed to return to some familiarity, not with a team, but with a situation. In understanding why Tapp signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions, the answer is two-fold.
Going back to defensive end in a 4-3 and the coach he would play for, Jim Washburn.
“Our relationship actually started at the Senior Bowl,” Tapp said during a teleconference Friday. “Coach Washburn was with the Titans and his staff was the North, and he got his hands on me and that was my first introduction to the NFL, the way he coached me up and the way he brought me with the speed and the way they do things in the NFL.
“Then, in Philadelphia, he had me again and I’ve been trying to get with that guy for the last five years at that time, and it just worked out well in Philadelphia.”
Tapp played two seasons for Washburn, 2011 and 2012 with the Eagles, before the two were separated again. But being a free agent for the second time in his career -- the first time was last season, when he took a chance on making a position switch -- Tapp knew he wanted to play for the guy he felt could really help him.
That was Washburn, so Detroit became a viable option.
Whether he is the same player or not, though, is debatable. His production has dipped every year since 2008, when he had 54 tackles and 5.5 sacks. After a 2009 season with 49 tackles for Seattle, he was traded to Philadelphia.
He hasn’t played 16 games in a season or made more than 30 tackles in a season since. Tapp, though, doesn’t believe he has diminished as a player. According to Pro Football Focus, he graded out positively in every season he played except for last season at outside linebacker and, coincidentally, the 2008 season, which was his best statistical year.
“Stat line don’t always tell the story,” Tapp said. “Let’s get that first and foremost. I’m the same player that I was coming out of the draft, just a few years older and a few years wiser.”
Whether he’s able to contribute will be determined.
If you’re looking for more on Tapp, here’s what our Washington reporter, John Keim, told me about him.
6hDana Wakiji / Special to ESPN.com