It’s easy to be all smiles and optimistic in the spring, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Robert Ayers said that transition to a new team after spending his first seven with Denver and the New York Giants has been nothing but positive.
“It’s real energetic,” the 30-year-old free agent pickup said Thursday from the practice fields of One Buc Place. “A lot of things are contagious. Winning is contagious, losing’s contagious, having a positive attitude is contagious. You can have a lot of guys that are negative and they can bring the room down, but here I haven’t seen one guy that’s like that and it’s rubbing off. It’s rubbing off on me, it’s rubbing off on all the new guys and guys that are normally quiet guys, you see them – Brent Grimes, from what I hear he was a little quiet – you see him out here getting a little energetic and things like that.
“So the atmosphere is real contagious and the expectations are high and we’re trying to win. I think everybody here is trying to win.”
The Bucs and their fan base are certainly hoping Ayers’ ability to get to the passer rubs off on his new teammates bookending the defensive line. The 6-foot-3, 275-pounder out of Tennessee enjoyed his best statistical season as a pro last year in New York despite appearing in only 12 games. Ayers posted career-highs in sacks (9.5), tackles (41), passes defensed (four) and forced fumbles (two). He brings 26.5 total sacks in seven seasons to Tampa Bay, but 20 of them came over the past three years.
Another newcomer the Bucs are expecting to terrorize offensive backfields with Ayers is rookie Noah Spence. The second-round draft pick who played collegiately at Eastern Kentucky after two years with Ohio State and Ayers likes what he’s seen so far.
“[His] stature and watching his college film, [I told him] he kind of reminds me of [Denver linebacker] Von Miller,” Ayers said. “Von Miller was a 4.4 [40-yard dash] guy, though, so he’s a little bit different, but their body language and their body movement, their build, their stature, their arm length and things like that, they’re real similar. Von is a lot faster, but just the way they play and the way they do things is real similar.”
The three-year, $21-million signing of Ayers and drafting of Spence represent Tampa Bay’s latest efforts to turn up the heat on opposing quarterbacks. They’ll join returning defensive end starters and contributors Jacquies Smith, George Johnson, William Gholston, Howard Jones and Kourtnei Brown to try and keep the Bucs’ sack totals trending in the right direction.
Tampa Bay went five straight seasons – from 2008 to 2012 – without cracking the 30-sack mark, but the team total has increased every year since 2011. That number grew from 23 to 27 to 35 to 36 and to 38 in 2015. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has led the team in sacks the past three seasons and no Buccaneer has hit double-digits since Simeon Rice racked up 14 in 2005.
Just a gut feeling….alias Smith and Jones…..long term impact players for our Bucs.
45 sacks this year…..and lots more pressures. They may only win 8 max but their competitive level will be so much better on both sides of the ball.
Between Spence, Smith, and Jones providing the speed rushing and Ayres and Gholston able to hold the corners and make tackles and rush the passer both, while also being able to move inside if needed, along with McCoy’s sacks and more aggressive blitzing, I predict more pressures and sacks this year since Rice and Sapp!!! That will also make for more turnovers too by the DBs.
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