Now that we’re in full offseason mode, we’re going to review every single Detroit Lions player that finished the 2016 season under contract. We’ll look at their expectations coming into the season, whether they met those expectations and what to expect of them going forward. We will begin with the upcoming free agents, as they are the most intriguing and time sensitive.
Expectations before 2016
Devin Taylor had a breakout season 2015 as a rotational player. His 7.0 sacks were a career high and second-most on the team last year. With Jason Jones off to Miami, Taylor was expected to take over the starting role at left defensive end and improve on his career year.
Actual role in 2016
2016 stats: 16 games (16 starts) | 28 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Devin Taylor’s 2016 season was irrefutably a disappointment. The Lions lacked a pass rush all season, and Taylor’s play was a big reason for that. In his first two games, Taylor had 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He would never have more than three tackles in a game for the remaining 14 contests.
This suggests Taylor was hurt by Ezekiel Ansah’s injury, which happened in Week 2. Still, Taylor was expected to prove himself a legitimate starter on his own in 2016, and unequivocally failed in that mission.
Outlook for 2017
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
Defensive end is a huge need for the Lions at this point, and it would make sense for the Lions to look elsewhere for someone to start on the left edge. That being said, Detroit may still bring back Taylor because of his familiarity in the system and because of his success coming off the bench. Regardless of whether the Lions add an end with a high draft pick or a big free agent signing, they’ll need to improve their depth. Defensive end is the kind of position that requires heavy rotation; the more bodies, the better.
If 2016 taught us anything about Taylor, it’s that he’s much better served as a rotational defender than a starter. The Lions will have to decide if that’s worth bringing back in 2017.
Previously profiled Lions: Riley Reiff, Anquan Boldin, Dan Orlovsky