The Bucs defensive line has been getting after it the past few days in practice, as the training camp routine has included more blitz periods during full-team scrimmage.

Robert Ayers works on a drill during the Bucs mini-camp – Photo: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs DE Robert Ayers – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Gerald McCoy was the subject of praise from coach Dirk Koetter and teammates on both sides of the ball Thursday, and on Friday Robert Ayers name was added into the mix. On a question about Noah Spence’s development, Koetter gave the rookie a strong vote of confidence before crediting Ayers and McCoy for “setting a good pace for all D-Linemen.”

“Those two, as hard as they’re pressing – just in that last red zone period – Ayers made two or three plays in the run period and Gerald is so disruptive in our run period that we can hardly get a run play off,” Koetter said. “They’re setting a great example for all our defensive linemen.”

Tampa Bay signed Ayers to a three-year, $19 million deal after a career-best 9.5-sack season with the Giants in 2015. So far in camp, as he’s led a quietly impressive defensive end group, Ayers still appears to be the player they envisioned when they brought him in.

“He’s a great add,” said LT Donovan Smith, who’s been tasked with blocking Ayers on the left side at times. “He definitely brings a fire off the ball, and age and experience. He’s able to vary his rushes, which is only going to help you out come Sundays. It’s a great add.”

Aside from Ayers, 30, Tampa Bay presumably has Jacquies Smith and Noah Spence vying for the other starting spot, with Will Gholston serving as a utility player along the defensive line. Reserve and rotational rolls, however, are a little less clear. After a season-ending injury to George Johnson on Thursday, Koetter mentioned Kourtnei Brown and Howard Jones as two players “in the limelight now.”

“(Brown and Jones) were already there in the competition, but it’s going to increase their role a little bit,” Koetter said, adding, “Injuries are the worst part about football at any level” and wishing Johnson the best in his recovery. “(All) these guys are competing for spots.”

Share On Socials

About the Author: Zach Shapiro

Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for 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:
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

I hope we get at least 2 10 sack guys this year. McCoy finally breaks the barrier and someone else.

4 years ago

We finally have the sackers we have needed. Our opposition will be very lucky if they ever have the time for seven step drops for deep passes. All our other teams in our Division thrive on deep passing and running the ball and we should be good against both.

4 years ago

No more Johnson’s for the D line please

Go Bucs !!!