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September 10, 2013

Offseason change of address sees Tapp joining favorite childhood team

By: Jimmy Robertson

Darryl Tapp suffered some tough years in Philadelphia, but
couldn’t be happier to be with the Redskins. (Photo courtesy
of the Washington Redskins)

Earlier this summer, Darryl Tapp and his family flew to Seattle to visit with some of his in-laws who lived in the Seattle area. He looked forward to the trip and to getting away after a difficult season with the Philadelphia Eagles, who lost 11 of their final 12 games and finished with a 4-12 mark.

Tapp wasn’t even thinking about free agency. His contract with Philadelphia had run its course, leaving him free to sign with any team in the NFL. But on his trip, he just wanted to relax after a taxing season.

Then he got the call from his agent.

“He told me the Redskins were interested in me,” Tapp said via a phone interview. “I was surprised. They were probably the last team I would have expected to have an interest in me.”

Tapp quickly flew back to Washington, D.C., and met with Redskins brass. He saw the facilities and the plan that the coaches had in place for him. He kept reminding himself that this was his favorite team from his childhood days.

Tapp ended up agreeing to a one-year contract with the Redskins worth $865,000. Washington’s management team and coach Mike Shanahan sold him on what they wanted to do, and Tapp never visited another NFL organization.

“This was the first time I had been a free agent,” he said. “I was in Seattle for four years, and then Pete Carroll [Seattle’s head coach] traded me to Philadelphia. The Eagles then extended my contract for two years. So this was the first time I was going to get to see what was out there.

“But when the Redskins called and I saw what they had to offer – and given that they were my favorite team growing up – I knew I had to jump on it. The powers that be made it happen, and I’m glad to be here.”

Tapp’s three years in Philadelphia did not go particularly well once he arrived in 2010. He played in 39 games, but started just three of them after starting 32 games during his four years in Seattle. Last season, he played in 13 games, but did not start in a single game.

He finished with 17 tackles (13 solo) and a half of a sack as a result. That marked his fewest tackles and sacks since he joined the league as a second-round pick of the Seahawks in the 2006 NFL Draft. More importantly to Tapp, he only went to the playoffs one time (2010). He has only been to the playoffs twice in his NFL career, with the other time coming in 2007 with the Seahawks.

“Last year was tough,” Tapp said. “I enjoyed the opportunity I had with the Eagles, but that was a tough place to be. We were losing so many games. It just never turned out the way I thought it would.”

The move to Washington comes with some risk. The Redskins want him to play the outside linebacker spot in their 3-4 scheme. Tapp played defensive end during his days at Tech and played the same role in both Seattle’s and Philadelphia’s 4-3 scheme during his days with those two organizations.

Being an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme means getting plenty of opportunities to rush the passer – something in which Tapp excels. But it also means playing in coverage at times, usually trying to check quick running backs or big and fast tight ends.

“It’s been good,” Tapp said of the transition to an outside linebacker. “I’ve been receiving tons of coaching, both from Coach Shanahan and Coach [Jim] Haslett [Washington’s defensive coordinator]. They’ve had their hands on me the entire process.

“The big thing for me is learning the coverages and getting used to where my help is going to be. But it’s been fun. I enjoy learning new things.”

Tapp went into the season as the backup to Ryan Kerrigan, the former first-round pick who has started every game the past two seasons for the Redskins. Kerrigan quietly ranks as one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL, having recorded 16 sacks in two years.

At the other outside linebacker spot is another former first-round pick, Brian Orakpo. Orakpo missed most of last season with an injury, but in the three previous seasons, he recorded 29.5 sacks.

Tapp envisions having individual success in Washington, albeit on a smaller scale. With such good players in front of him, he may not put up astronomical numbers. But he cares more about the success of the organization anyway than any personal success for himself.

“I just want to win,” he said. “I’m so tired of losing. My last two years in Philadelphia, we didn’t win a lot, and that’s miserable. Winning and going to the playoffs, that’s why you play the game.”

In addition to feeling the excitement of playing a new position, Tapp also enjoys playing with a bunch of former Tech players. DeAngelo Hall, Will Montgomery and Josh Morgan all reside on the Washington roster. Tapp played with all three of those guys at Tech. In fact, Tapp and Hall have known each other since elementary school.

“Special guys,” Tapp said. “Just like old times.”

While things last season didn’t go as well as planned for Tapp, he enjoyed a big year off the field. He and his wife, Tiffany, had their first child, a daughter named Taylor Nicole.

Their daughter’s birth happened last Nov. 5 – the same day the Eagles took on the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans. But Tapp stayed behind in Philadelphia to be with his wife and witness the birth of his daughter.

So he’s got a new child and a new team. Now the former two-time first-team All-ACC player is hoping for new results.

“Things are awesome,” Tapp said. “All the guys here are great. No one is letting the media control us or our expectations. Everyone is down to earth, and they’re all hard workers.

“I’m just happy to have this opportunity. I’m all in.”