When the New York Giants lost Justin Tuck to free agency and the Oakland Raiders last month, they knew they needed to fill a void left by a nine-year veteran, defensive captain and for many years, the heart and soul of the team.
In comes Robert Ayers from the Denver Broncos, who was signed to a two-year deal and will be a part of the Giants defensive line rotation and take the spot vacated by Tuck; Ayers is even wearing Tuck's number 91 in the 2014 season too.
The one thing that Ayers doesn't have that Tuck did is the high sack totals even though he hasn't been in the league as long as Tuck, but the best season Ayers had in Denver was this past year in 2013 when he had 5.5 sacks for the AFC Champions; for his career he has just 12 sacks (Tuck had 11 sacks alone in 2013.)
Ayers signed with the Giants because of the opportunity for a fresh start and a chance to rejuvenate his career playing on a top-tier defense that allows their pass rushers to shine in Perry Fewell's system.
"The biggest thing I'm looking forward to is the fresh start," said Ayers. "I feel like the opportunity was given to me [last season] to play at a position that [allowed me to] maximize my ability. Before, it wasn't always that," said Ayers, who had flipped between a 3-4 defensive end and outside linebacker and 4-3 defensive end as the Broncos changed defenses throughout the years. I feel like I was out of position a lot of times but last year when Von was suspended, they had to play me. I was put in the situation and I was able to capitalize," he said.
Ayers talked about when he was playing behind Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, he was at times playing out of position and not used to the best of his abilities, but once Dumervil left the team and Miller was suspended and then went down for the season with an injury, it gave Ayers the chance he needed to shine and show the Broncos exactly what he could do if played at the right spot. The Giants and Jerry Reese saw what Ayers did in 2013, which is why when they saw Tuck depart to Oakland, they jumped at the chance to take Ayers.
Ayers said the best thing to happen to him in Denver was when Jack Del Rio arrived as the team's defensive coordinator and moved him from a 3-4 defensive end/linebacker and made him into a strictly 4-3 defensive end; and the results showed.
"At times I was an outside 'backer [in Denver] and I was always dropping into coverage. And then, when coach [John] Fox got there, I was basically a 3-4 end. At 275, I'm not built like that. I don't function like that," Ayers said. "I'm not a double-team guy and that's what I was doing. When coach Del Rio got there, he quickly said, 'That's not you,’ and he put me to the open end."
Now with the Giants, Ayers will be used in the same role that Tuck was used with the Giants; a run-stuffing defensive end that will be able to get to the quarterback and get sacks when needed. If Ayers can have the kind of presence that Tuck had when he was healthy for the Giants, then the team won't miss a beat and everything will be fine on defense in 2014.
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