Speaking via conference call Wednesday, recently acquired Bucs defensive end Robert Ayers answered questions from members of the Tampa Bay media and expressed his excitement in joining a team who he believes is poised to be a contender next season.
“Just a few more pieces and a great coach, and if you put those things together, I think we can be there,” Ayers, who signed a three-year, $21 million contract last Saturday, said. “I think we can win and I think we have a great staff with a great core of players. I’m excited to be a part of it.
“I’m not just saying this now because I’m a Buc. The last two years I always thought the Bucs would be a contender and I think they are right there.”
Coming off by far his best year in 2015, a season in which he recorded 9.5 sacks and 41 tackles, Ayers defended the early parts of his career spent with the Broncos. While his stats didn’t quite align with his 18th overall draft selection through his first six seasons in the NFL – just 12 sacks – he doesn’t believe the struggles were due to a lack of ability or potential. Instead, Ayers thinks he was too immature at the time to handle multiple coaching and position changes.
“When I first came into the league, honestly, I wasn’t as mature as I needed to be,” Ayers said. “And I was asked to do things that I wasn’t comfortable with, scheme wise. I faced a lot of challenges and, mentally, I wasn’t able to deal with it. Quite frankly, I wasn’t mature enough. I bounced around, had a lot of different positions and different roles and had four defensive coordinators in my first five years.”
Ayers noted that he started to improve during his fifth season under then Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio – 5.5 sacks in 2013 – and really took off under the guidance of Giants’ coaches the past two seasons. Helping his progress, he claims, was becoming a starter last season in New York, an opportunity he rarely saw in Denver, where he backed up Von Miller.
And that’s all Ayers is asking for at this stage of his career: an opportunity. He’s confident that the Buccaneers, and Mike Smith in particular, will put him in position to succeed and maximize his ability on defense.
“I know what (Mike Smith) stands for and I don’t believe he’s going to steer me wrong,” Ayers said. “He’s had a lot of success and won a lot of games and, talking to him about scheme, I think he’ll put me in a position to succeed.
“I wanted to be in a situation with a staff that knows what they’re getting. They saw me being successful my last few years and I think they’re going to utilize me and allow me to do the things that I do well.”
The former Volunteer wasn’t willing to make any predictions about a 10-sack season – something that’s escaped the team since Simeon Rice in 2005 – though he believes he’s fully capable, at any position.
The one silver lining from switching positions and going through four defensive coordinators in five years is that it made him more versatile and adept to change. General manager Jason Licht spoke highly of Ayers’ versatility when they signed him, and the 30-year old pro echoed that confidence on Wednesday.
“Whatever they ask me to do I’m ready to do, whether it be right, left, inside, drop into coverage, rush, or whatever,” Ayers said. “That’s what I think I can bring to this team, so if that’s what they ask me to do that’s what I’m going to do.”
Of course it won’t hurt to have Gerald McCoy along side him, with Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander right behind on the field. Not to mention an offense with a hopeful franchise quarterback to lead the way.
“The opportunity to play with Gerald McCoy, a guy I’ve watched and studied a lot – he’s a tremendous player, one of the best in the league,” Ayers said. “Then you have Lavonte and the rookie middle linebacker and the defensive backs now. And Jameis Winston – to be honest with you, in this league you can’t win without a quarterback. With him, I see a guy who can make that Cam Newton-type rise and be a star in this league.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
Sounds good. I just hope it is good.
Maybe he’s a late bloomer and will give us a couple of good years as we develop the youngsters.
We had to try something, Ayers seems like a fair deal. I am hoping like Scu that he IS MATURE enough now to accept coaching and perform. Don’t have to have 10 plus sacks, just be able to bring constant pressure along with Smith from the outside. McCoy will reap benefits if it happens.
I hope it works out. So tired of watching opposing qb’s stand behind their offensive lines forever while our d-line gets no pressure until after the ball is released. I’m a longtime fan and I live in the Washington,D.C. area. That game last season hurt like hell and it still stings…go ‘Bucs !!!!
I was emotionally eaten up after that game. Had they won I think the season may have been very different. It definitely took the wind out of our sails, no doubt.
If we can find a few defensive starters out of this draft and Ayers works out for the most part…we can be dangerous.
I think he better get 10 or more or i’ll ????
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