Sometimes it takes a little extra edginess from the defensive line to win battles in the trenches and Robert Ayers brings that anger to the Bucs front four.
Speaking after practice Tuesday, Bucs captain Gerald McCoy was careful not to call himself and other returning lineman “nice guys,” but admitted that they could use a little of Ayers’ emotion – even if it leads to a couple small fights here and there.
“Rob is from Jersey so they kind of got a little (edge) to them. When coaches talk about making sure we don’t fight in practice, we’re like (pretends to be looking at Ayers), ‘Right, Rob’” McCoy said, drawing laughs. “Not because he’s a mean guy, but that just makes him him.
“He’s got a lot of nastiness to him, which helps us out a lot when we’re preparing in meetings and getting ready to go against other teams.”
The Bucs finished tied for 14th last season in sacks with 38 – 28 by the D-Line – but a few more splash plays in critical situations could’ve made the difference in a close win or loss. Perhaps a little attitude, passed on from Ayers to the rest of the unit, will help push them over the edge and into more victories this season.
Though McCoy said the Bucs defense is still working to establish an identity, they have a clear idea of where they want to be and that’s a start.
“Did you see when Denver did to Carolina in the Super Bowl? Did you watch the Super Bowl when the Bucs played against Oakland in San Diego? That should answer your question,” McCoy said.
And it almost does answer the question. But the four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, in a particularly friendly mood after the first joint practice, elaborated. Even if a particular play doesn’t start their way, McCoy explained, players need to always recover and race to the ball. And it takes all 11 guys.
“That 2002 Bucs defense, lets take away all the Hall of Famers and just look at 11 people. When the ball moved, 11 moved – as fast as they could to wherever the ball was at,” McCoy said. “That’s what we’re trying to build ourselves on.
“If you’re out of your gap, you turn and you go as fast as you can. We had a play against Jacksonville where Will Gholston got out of his gap. He fell on the ground, popped up and ran to make the play 10 yards down the field. You asked about our identity – that’s where we need to be.”
As far as his own unit’s concerned, McCoy said Noah Spence is “coming along strong,” that Gholston is “having a really strong camp,” and that they call Clinton McDonald “the hammer for a reason.” He’s also confident in the defensive strategy.
“Coach Smith’s scheme is great; it leaves opportunities for everybody to make plays.”