When the Bucs picked up 8th year veteran DL Robert Ayers in the offseason, there was some trepidation about his motor and passion left for the game. An honest and knowledgeable Bucs fan will tell you that a number of veteran players have come to the bay area to ease out their last year or two. Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise when Ayers gave his first press conference as a Buc, and delivered words of intensity and a willingness to continue winning.
Ayers has been a proven commodity at both stops in his NFL career, beginning in Denver where he was drafted in 2009 out of Tennessee. The instant leadership impact Ayers brought to the Bucs D-Line was inspiring, and greatly needed. Coach Koetter has been more than pleased with Ayers’ leadership qualities, and the tutelage he has been able to convey to rookie Noah Spence and second year LB Kwon Alexander.
Ayers was asked about any words of wisdom he has offered Alexander to lead the linebacker corps.
“Every once in a while I may say something to him, but he’s a natural leader,” Ayers said. “You don’t have to say too much for him. He wants to bust heads, he wants to make plays, he wants to win and he wants to compete. He has a great coach that’s pushing them all. And I see Lavonte every day, every time we’re out there Lavonte is in his ear. And that’s the type of leader that he is, but Kwon is self-motivated, he’s hungry man, so I don’t have to say much to Kwon. He’s ready to go, I feel like he’s hungry based off of things that happened to him last year. He’s hungry, he’s out to prove a point, he’s ready to have a great second year. He’s a young guy but I consider him to be a captain on this defense, that’s how I look at him. The sky’s the limit for him and, like I said, I don’t have to say much to him, he’s motivated, he’s hungry and he understands the role and he’s ready to play, he’s ready to go.”
The presence of veteran LB Daryl Smith is also a benefit for this linebacker unit’s amalgamation. Although, when you have another voice, such as Ayers’ there for your training, it’s advantageous for a younger player to receive that backing. Let us not forget that while in Denver, Ayers played that 3-4 and dropping into linebacker positions, so he is also familiar with linebacker coverages as well.
Knowing that Ayers has the attention and admiration of the Bucs current defensive line, and Alexander commands respect from his fellow linebackers, the Bucs could be a more efficient unit than initially given credit for. Anytime an 8 year player of Ayers’ caliber, who’s played in several systems and all over the defensive line, calls a second year player the “leader of our defense”, something special is emerging in Tampa Bay. There is no doubt that the organization, fans, and the media already have seen signs of that.