May 28, 2014 at 1:00 am

Lions' DE Devin Taylor ready for big encore after productive rookie campaign

Devin Taylor goes through drills during the Lions' OTA last week in Allen Park. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Allen Park — Lions defensive end Devin Taylor played more than expected his rookie season, and looking ahead to his second year, he plans to handle whatever role the coaches give him.

After being buried on the depth chart at the start of last season, Taylor became the fourth end after starter Jason Jones suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 3 against Washington.

The Lions eased Taylor into the NFL in Weeks 4-7, but from Week 8 on, he supplanted veteran Israel Idonije as the No. 3 behind Ziggy Ansah and Willie Young. He also started in Weeks 10 and 11 when Ansah was out with an ankle injury.

Jones and Ansah are the presumed starters this season, but with Young and Idonije with the Bears, Taylor should be in line to be a key contributor.

When asked what role he anticipates having next season, however, Taylor simply said, “Whatever my coach tells me. We don’t have exact definitions of roles and stuff, so it’s whatever I can contribute.”

Taylor, who trimmed about 5 percent body fat during the offseason, could easily end up starting more this season.

Ansah sat out organized team activities last week as he continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery, and Jones was limited. Plus, while Jones is the presumed starter and signed a three-year, $9.5 million contract last year, he had one tackle and one pass defensed in three games before suffering the injury.

“It doesn’t matter who starts,” Taylor said. “At the end of the day, you still have to be ready when your name is called.”

Taylor hardly filled the stat sheet, though, with nine tackles, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a pass defensed. But, he did have a couple impressive splash plays with a sack and forced fumble against the Browns in Week 6 and Packers in Week 13.

Although Taylor didn’t rack up the numbers, he was successful as a run defender, helping create gaps for the linebackers. He played 245 snaps from Week 8-17 while Idonije played 167 (he missed Week 17 with a neck injury).

It’s also reasonable to expect the 6-foot-7 Taylor to deflect more passes under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin because last year’s staff didn’t put an emphasis on defensive linemen breaking up passes.

Besides Jones and Ansah, Taylor will have to compete with free-agent signee Darryl Tapp and fourth-round pick Larry Webster on the depth chart. Tapp could be a solid contributor, but his production slipped in recent years. Webster is considered a developmental player.

Ebron in L.A.

First-round pick Eric Ebron will be among the more than 35 rookies participating in the NFL Players Association’s Rookie Premiere this week in Los Angeles.

The event, Thursday-Saturday, is an opportunity for players to learn about the business side of football as well as pose for Panini America trading cards.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com
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