Lions' Taylor turning the 'on' switch with his development

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Devin Taylor takes a bow after sacking 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the third quarter last week.

Allen Park — Devin Taylor is one of the calmer players in the Lions locker room.

He’s 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, but his wardrobe full of Nickelodeon- and superhero-themed items is just one example of his youthfulness.

Yet, in his third NFL season, Taylor has shown the ability to be a consistently menacing player for opponents.

“He gets along with everybody,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s rather quiet, but, like most of the guys that are out there, when you walk out between those white stripes, you get a little different individual in terms of his goals and aims of trying to throw his body around and get after people.

“I think he’s got that combination of civility and toughness. He’s a civil individual off the field, but on the field, he’s got some fortitude.”

The 26-year-old Taylor is in the midst of his best NFL season so far and has become the Lions’ best pass-rushing option off the bench. He’s second on the team with six sacks and third with eight tackles for loss, and he’s successfully replaced the production the Lions lost from George Johnson, the man who took what was supposed to be an expanded role for Taylor in 2014.

Taylor credited his offseason preparation, which included working out with veteran defensive end Darryl Tapp, for part of his improvement. He also said focusing on minor details after each game has helped. One example he provided was spending the week of practice focusing on his hand placement if he had an issue with it in the previous game.

“When you start playing more, you realize how much more crucial all the little stuff is versus the big picture,” Taylor said. “Because if you do all the little things right all the big stuff will kind of take care of itself as you’re going along.”

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Another reason for Taylor’s strong season is an improved sense of belief in himself. After playing a limited role in his first two seasons, he’s taken advantage of his opportunities this year and now looks like a potential starter next year. He could even start Sunday with Jason Jones (neck) likely out.

Taylor said he flips his emotional switch before games with music. He mostly listens to alternative, rap and electronic music and alters the playlist to his pregame mood each week.

And even though he’s playing well this year, he said he’s “never satisfied,” and Caldwell said he’s not sure what Taylor’s ceiling is.

“He’s a guy that has length and strength and power, and he’s getting to the point where he’s getting fairly confident in what he’s doing,” Caldwell said. “On a weekly basis, he shows up, and I just think, without question, he’s going to continue to grow and develop.

“Sometimes, it takes a little while, but he’s in that range right now that I think you can start to see a spurt just in terms of how effective he is.”

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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