Darryl Tapp adjusting to new role in opportunity with boyhood team

Darryl Tapp

Darryl Tapp signs autographs for young fans after Friday’s practices. (Steve Helber/Associated Press)

RICHMOND — A free agent this past offseason following his seven-season tenure with the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles, Darryl Tapp expected to draw interest from teams looking for a defensive end for their 4-3 defense.

But “out of nowhere” came a call from the Washington Redskins, Tapp’s boyhood team. The interest from Washington came as a surprise. The Redskins ran a 3-4 defense and wanted him for a position he had never played before.

But Tapp, a Portsmouth, Va., native, had no reservations.

“The Redskins wanted to offer me a contract, and I jumped on it,” he said Wednesday. “I had never imagined playing for the Redskins, especially being a Redskins fan, being a Virginia kid. I never imagined it because they ran a 3-4, and I’d always been a 4-3 end with the Eagles. It was a special feeling. … Washington kind of came out of nowhere, and you can’t say no. You’ve got to jump on the Washington Redskins.”

Joining the Redskins also meant an opportunity for Tapp to reunite with DeAngelo Hall, his friend since elementary school and former Virginia Tech teammate.

Right after signing his contract this spring, Tapp met with the Redskins’ strength and conditioning coaches Ray Wright and Chad Englehart, and linebackers coach Bob Slowik to find out what he needed to do to make the transition from defensive end.

The strength coaches instructed Tapp to modify his eating habits, lowering the calorie intake, and they gave him a new workout plan. Tapp said more than losing weight, he had to shift weight.

“I definitely lost some LBs, because I’d always been a D-end,” he said. “So, I definitely had to re-do my body composition some, to be able to run with these little guys all day.”

He further explained: “It’s not so much weight I have to lose. It’s more so just preparing for the rigors of being a linebacker. “As a defensive end, you come into camp a little bit heavier because you know you’re going to be doing a lot of pounding and things of that nature. As a linebacker, you’re doing tons of running. So, you have to get more of that foundation. I definitely came in about five or six pounds lighter than I normally do.”

The workout plan differed from anything Tapp was familiar with for an offseason program.

“I lifted differently because the Redskins lift differently than anybody I’ve been around,” he said. “They really attack it in the weight room during the offseason because they’re trying to add pounds, so you’ll be more durable during the season, which I really appreciate. A lot of times, strength coaches, they’re dancing on that fine line where they don’t want to get guys hurt so going into the season, it’s kind of a maintenance program. But here, they’re all about building the weight up.”

The modifications obviously came on the field as well. Rather than rushing out of three-point stance as he has all his life, Tapp had to learn how to rush standing up. He also has had to learn how to drop back into pass coverage.

Tapp has spent the offseason practices and training camp learning the left outside linebacker spot, serving as a backup to Ryan Kerrigan. Gradually, the comfort level has begun to improve.

“The more I do it, the more comfortable I feel. That’s something that’s going to continue to take time. Hopefully, speeding up a little bit more because that first game is coming fast,” he said.

The biggest challenge?

“Just playing in space, really,” he said. “You have to be aware of the responsibility, be aware of what your responsibility is. It’s something I’ve been doing my entire life, just a different view of it now.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.

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What’s ahead:

● Today’s second practice is 3:20 p.m. If you’re on your way to Richmond, check our our guide to training camp for tips on getting autographs, where to park and things to do after the session is over.

● A post on the Pro Bowl’s new draft-style format.

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