Robert Ayers Plays Nasty, and the Buccaneers Need It

Jul 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Robert Ayers (91) during training camp at One Buccaneer Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Robert Ayers (91) during training camp at One Buccaneer Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

After ending up in a scuffle at Monday’s practice, Robert Ayers continues to bring an edge and a nastiness to the Buccaneers’ defense that is absolutely necessary.

As the Buccaneers have revamped the defense heading into this season, there is an intangible they are looking for, one that you can’t teach.  Pass rushing moves can be taught, tackling techniques can be taught, and dropping back into coverage can be taught.  But there is a particular intangible that can’t be taught, but is an essential element to any successful defense.

That intangible is nastiness, and Robert Ayers is bringing it.

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It boiled over a bit on Monday.  Following this play during the Bucs’ practice at the Trop:

As Auman described, Ayers was in the middle of a scuffle, and Jameis had to remove him from the fray.  Coach Koetter talked about it after practice:

"“There are little fracases that break out of every day. I’ve said before: these are grown men they get irritated. We’re sitting here preaching ‘Compete, compete, compete,’ and when you’re competing against the same guys every day they’re going to get mad at each other. They’re always accusing each other of holding each other that’s why we had the refs. I mean O-line and D-line, they’re going to be going at it, receivers and [defensive backs] are going to go at it, tight end and linebackers and going to go at it. These are the most competitive guys in the world, they’re professional athletes. It’s going to happen. I don’t want anybody to get hurt in a fight, but at the same time I understand that it’s going to happen. If there is a real fight they’ll get booted out, but that was just pushing and shoving.”"

Coach is right.  These things are going to happen.  Imagine how you would feel, running around in football pads in the hot August sun, and not getting the ability to release that aggression on other teams.  Players will turn on each other.  As long as nobody gets hurt, it really isn’t a big deal.

The nastiness is clear in Ayers when you listen to him talk about what transpired:

"“I don’t necessarily see it as anything different as anything else. Guys competing and sometimes you get pissed off. They get pissed off at us, and we get pissed off at them. Hand may get thrown, but the way I look at it is that’s how it’s supposed to be. You’re battling against someone every day, you’re supposed to be mad, you’re supposed to respond with anger and emotion. It happens and the good thing about it is we’ve got a lot of pros and it’s in the past now, we move forward, we get better. If something happens tomorrow, if I get beasted, I’m going to get mad I’m going to try and respond. If I beast them, they’re going to get mad they’re going to try and respond and that’s what I like about this unit. There’s a bunch of guys going at each other’s neck, and that’s a good thing.”"

He had an interesting opinion of himself in the next quote:

"“I wouldn’t say that. I do feel like I’m a naturally pissed off person and sometimes things happen and fights break out. I’ve never been part of a team where there aren’t fights and there aren’t guys going at each other’s neck, but it’s a nature of the beast. I want to win, they want to win. Only one person can win [laughs], so with that being said, it’s part of the game. Sometimes you may see one guy and you may think, ‘Oh, I’m don’t think I’m [any] different than [defensive end] Kourtnei Brown.’ He was out there throwing down first day of practice. [Defensive tackle] Gerald McCoy, he’s out there, he’s the same way. [Defensive tackle] Clinton [McDonald], he’s the same way, [linebackers] Lavonte [David], Kwon [Alexander], he’s a high-strung guy. I don’t consider myself to be [any] different from anybody else, but sometimes the spotlight is on you when you guys see it.”"

Being naturally “pissed off” might not be the best way to be off the field, but on it, being annoyed is perfect.  Getting after the quarterback requires an edge.  The best rushers are nasty.  They play with abandon.  The defense has to play like they know they are better than their opponents.  That’s the difference between a good defense and an elite defense.

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The Bucs have been looking for this type of edge for a long time.  Ayers plays nasty, like he is mad at the other time.  Despite the fight, this is the type of energy that the defense needs to take that next step.