It’s been a while since the Buccaneers have had a player record 10 sacks in a single season. Not since Simeon Rice ripped off 14 in 2005, his eighth double-digit sack season and fifth straight in Tampa Bay.

Gerald McCoy has come extremely close the past three years, while Jacquies Smith looked well on his way last season before an injury slowed him down the second half of the year. Recent free agent pass rushers, Michael Johnson and George Johnson, have come nowhere near, with the latter failing to record a single sack in 2015.

The Bucs signed DE Robert Ayers to a 3-year, $19.5 million deal after he recorded 9.5 sacks last year – Photo by: Getty ImagesEnter Robert Ayers. After a disappointing start to his career, the former first-round pick has seen his production increase the past three seasons – 20 sacks – earning him a three-year, $21 million deal from the Buccaneers. The team hopes his rise will continue and he can break the trend of previous free agent additions, and while Ayers isn’t making any stat promises, he’s confident he has what it takes.

“I definitely feel like I’m capable of (10 sacks), but I can’t say what I will do,” Ayers said Wednesday. “I just know that I believe in myself and I believe in the guys around me. I feel like I’m getting better, learning the game and understanding things better. I’m constantly trying to improve and learn, and I think playing with Gerald McCoy will definitely set me up to build on a lot of those things.”

While double-digit sacks are certainly a goal, Ayers said that stats could be misleading at times. For example, he would argue that 9.5 sacks in 12 games – his numbers last season – is more impressive than 10 in 16 games. Or the fact that quarterbacks have more leeway for what’s considered intentional grounding. And for what it’s worth, Ayers believes he’s already achieved the 10-sack milestone.

“It was one against Minnesota. I beat the guard, came through and jumped on him,” Ayers said, explaining how half of a sack was credited to a teammate. “I was pulling down and my teammate, George Selvie, jumped on him later, so they gave me a half. I kind of argued that it should’ve been a full, but maybe if George didn’t jump on him he would’ve thrown the ball away, so I understood that argument.”

Nevertheless, his production and playing time has risen dramatically over the past three years. Ayers credits his improvement to coaches working around his strength and putting him in position to succeed, which is the type of style that attracted him to the Bucs coaching staff and, in particular, Mike Smith.

After praising Jack Del Rio, his former defensive coordinator in Denver who helped revive his career, Ayers made comparisons between the two coaches. Like Del Rio, Ayers believes Smith knows how to maximize players’ talent, rather than fit them into schemes.

“I wanted to be a great player, and I understand from being in this league that you have to be in the right system,” Ayers said. “You can take more money and go some place where you’ll be asked to do things that you’re not good at, but for me, I wanted to be in a situation with a staff that knows what they’re getting. They saw me my last few years and I think they’re going to utilize me and allow me to do the things that I do well.

“I know what (Mike Smith) stands for and I don’t believe he’s going to steer me wrong. 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. And to me that’s the No. 1 priority of what I want.”

For fans who want to see results on paper, double digit sacks would be considered a successful season.

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About the Author: Zach Shapiro

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: zshapiro12@gmail.com
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fredster
fredster
5 years ago

Good article. We haven’t had great luck with free agency hopefully he’s a hit and not another miss. Good to hear his praises of Mike Smith. All great coaches are able to put players in best position to utilize their skills. It’s bad coaching (Lovie) to try to make players adapt and fit a scheme.

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

We have heard this song before from free agents. My advice to all free agents arriving at OBP is to keep quiet until you show us something.

macabee
macabee
5 years ago

Horse, It happens every time about this time of year. Remember this? And there’s ole macabee, first one out of the gate with his welcome hoping this could be the one! lol. – Well this time I’m keeping my dadgum mouth shut until I see the goods. Hindsight is 20/20 isn’t it? Now I remain optimistic – at least the guy is not named Johnson and he could be a breath of fresh Ayers! (I jest). – Now to be sure, I’m not putting down anyone who thinks Robert Ayers is a good move. It looks good, it may be… Read more »

makski
makski
5 years ago

I’m hoping he comes in and does a good job. At least we didn’t give up the farm to get him. Sounds like he will try hard at the very least, that’s all we can ask for. I am hoping that this years FA bust will be O. Vernon. That way we can all be glad that we missed out on him. Don’t believe he has a lot of experience in the NFL and he has never even started for an entire season. Sometimes that makes a bigger difference than you would think. It is much easier to be that… Read more »

pittbullbuc
pittbullbuc
5 years ago

Like macabee and makski I am optimistic, doing the “Go Bucs” for Robert Ayers, ” show us what you know “. And since I remember that I;(and others on PR) was hoping we would get him at draft time, I think Coach M. Smith will use him to his ways to do best. IMO, Coach L. Smith would put him in his scheme and that would be it!
Hopefully, we’ll all be happier w/M.Smith and R. Ayer’s progress. Improved coaching “Yah”!!!!

martinii
martinii
5 years ago

Sacks are one of the most exciting plays in football, and the number of sacks a player gets certainly contributes to his quest for Canton. However, I believe games are far more affected by hurries resulting in throw aways, groundings, and interceptions. Sack numbers enhance an individual players status (in addition to team successes) but solid consistent pressure by the whole defense results in wins.

surferdudes
surferdudes
5 years ago

As stated in Scott’s Fab 5 the alarming rate Q.B.’s completed quick slants against us it’s a wonder we could get a sack at all. Now if we make it harder to complete that pass, our line should get an extra second, or two to get a sack. Let’s throw the last two years out. Lovie’s D gave up 70 percent completion rate, last year. It wasn’t cause Q.B.’s always had time to throw, it was more on how they could get quick completions. First game against M.M. was a perfect example. Four T.D. passes from a rookie on the… Read more »

jme0151
jme0151
Reply to  surferdudes
5 years ago

Funny Surf. Ayers will help but this defense HAS to get better on the back end. That was awful last year. It was like Lovie just lost his mind.

plopes808
plopes808
5 years ago

Like everyone else, I’m tempering my expectations of our FAs. On the other hand though, I feel a lot of our “busts” were a result of trying to fit players into a scheme that didn’t compliment their skill set. Also, many of them were hand-picked by Lovie. Mike Smith sounds like the type of DC that will play to the strengths of the players instead so hopefully our chances of hitting in FA will be higher moving forward. Time will tell, but at least we can’t get much worse lol. Looking forward to a much improved defense and a more… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

jme0151, I hate to say this because I used to support Lovie and his low key nature. But actually it looked like Lovie lost his interest sometimes.

Dude
Dude
5 years ago

I heard Ayers has shoulder problems. But I’m sure he was given a physical by the Bucs doctors. I’m optimistic, and got a feeling that the rumor mill churned out that one. Either way, as long as we get a good couple of years out of him, and give some time for our, hopefully, newly drafted DE’s to mature a little, we’ll be good to go.

makski
makski
5 years ago

Sort of off topic, but does anyone know anything about the “other” DE from Florida?? Not J. Bullard, but A. McAllister?? I was just wondering because I don’t watch a lot of college football and this kid’s measureables are off the charts!!! Does he have a bad “motor” or was he just out-shined by Bullard? Did he even play much, was he the other starter, or was he on the bench? Can anyone out there give me some idea of his talent? All I know is that he ran a 4.80 40(top 10), had a 34.5 in. vert(top 10), 10’8″… Read more »

macabee
macabee
5 years ago

Maksi, The Gators dismissed defensive end/edge rusher Alex McCalister from the team prior to the Gators’ Citrus Bowl meeting with Michigan for unspecified violation of team rules. McCalister was thought of as the Gators’ best pass-rusher and shared the team lead in sacks with Jonathan Bullard at 6.5 before a foot injury in mid-November. But for the off field stuff, he is almost a carbon copy of DE/OLB Leonard Floyd/UGA who will be taken in the 1st round. – McCalister was also one of three Gators suspended for Florida’s 2015 opener against New Mexico State for what the school termed… Read more »

makski
makski
Reply to  macabee
5 years ago

Thanks macabee, that is exactly what I was looking for. Actually, even more info than I expected.