The Patriots made their first in-season splash of 2014, trading a 6th round pick to the Tennessee Titans for linebacker Akeem Ayers. Ayers, a fourth year pro out of UCLA, will head to New England to help fill the void created when star linebacker Jerod Mayo went down with a torn patellar injury in Week Six. The trade will become official when Ayers passes his physical.
Ayers, a former second round pick, had his best season in 2012 when he recorded 104 tackles and six sacks. Ayers has started 43 out of 50 games, but he has only played ten snaps in 2014. He had surgery on each knee in the offseason, but he's healthy and eager to prove that he can still be a contributor on an NFL defense.
The Titans have been using strictly a 3-4 defense this season, and they saw Ayers as a poor fit. Although the Patriots do use a 3-4 at times, the fact that Ayers is better in the 4-3 gives us a peak into what the Patriots plans are defensively for the stretch run, a run loaded with strong teams. Ayers played the SAM (strong side linebacker) role with the Titans, so if he does get a chance, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Dont'a Hightower moved back to MIKE (middle linebacker). Hightower is better in the SAM role, but at this point it is about getting the best players on the field, wherever that may happen to be.
Ayers has accumulated 232 tackles, nine sacks, 14 passes defense, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in his four years in the league. The Patriots are hoping that he has overcome his injury problems from last season so he can add to those career numbers.