Devin Taylor and Ziggy Ansah could very well be the starting defensive ends for the Detroit Lions next fall.
While Taylor and Ansah are members of the same 2013 draft class, their paths to the starting lineup are quite different.
Ansah, the No. 5 overall pick in 2013, was a starter from Day 1 and has amassed more sacks (30.0) than anyone drafted from 2013-15. He was third in the NFL with 14.5 of them last season.
Taylor, a fourth-round pick in 2013, has been mostly a rotational player with two starts in his NFL career. He was a healthy scratch for a Week 2 loss in Minnesota last season, a situation Taylor said he used as fuel to jumpstart his development. The 6-foot-7, 275-pound edge rusher played with a chip on his shoulder the rest of the season.
"It was just one of those trigger points, I guess," Taylor told detroitlions.com last season.
"I would say a little bit of motivation as well. Kind of seeing where you don't want to be and take whatever you need to do to get better ... to basically perform so you stay on the field."
In 15 games last season as a backup to starters Ansah and Jason Jones, Taylor finished second on the team with seven sacks. He recorded four of those in his last five contests, including two sacks and a forced fumble in a Week 13 loss to Green Bay.
Taylor was called for a late facemask penalty in that Green Bay game, however, that helped set up the game-winning Hail Mary.
He showed what he's capable of the down the stretch last season, and it appears the coaching staff might be ready to hand him an even bigger role this upcoming season.
"I think he's capable (of having a bigger role)," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said at the NFL League Meetings last month. "I think, you look at him, he's improved. He was a better player last year than he had been the previous year. He's a better player that year than he was the year before that."
Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has been working hard with Taylor over the last few seasons on using his hands and leverage to his advantage. The Lions started to see the fruits of that labor down the stretch last season.
As it stands right now, Ansah, Taylor, newly signed free agent Wallace Gilberry and Kerry Hyder are the only edge rushers on the roster. The team could add a pass rusher or two in the NFL Draft later this month.
But, no matter who the team adds to the position, expect Taylor to play a key role in 2016.
"This guy, he doesn't talk much," Caldwell said. "He works at it. And he's also a guy that's got some intestinal fortitude. So I think all of those things lend to a guy that could certainly play a little bit bigger role in the things that we do."