#3 Robert Ayers baby! Wait, what? Robert Ayers? YES, ROBERT AYERS!!!
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building, and there is no bringing him back. He left an enormous hole with his departure, so someone has to step up their game and replace his production. Enter Robert Ayers.
Ayers was considered a "tweener" when he was drafted. He played his entire life with his hand in the dirt, yet when he was drafted by McDaniels, he was switched to Linebacker because he was too small to be a lineman and fast enough to be a linebacker. Unfortunately for Ayers, he never made that transition work. He was like a fish out of water, and unlike Dumervil, he just couldn't get it done. McDaniels really did Ayers a disservice by standing him up and forcing him to play a position he never played before.
I'm a true believer that you should draft a player to play the position they have played their entire life. Ayers played on the line his whole life. I don't care what his body type is, he's been a lineman his whole life, not a linebacker. If someone thought he'd be a better LB than DE in the NFL, then why in the hell wasn't he a LB in college where he would have truly dominated? The easy answer is, "Because he isn't a freaking linebacker!!!" It's like the whole Tim Tebow crap. He's played nothing but QB his whole life. Why do people constantly think that he'd naturally be an NFL caliber RB or TE when he's never played that position before? Because of his body type? That's crap! Do you think "body type" will instantly make you an NFL caliber TE or RB or LB in Ayers' case? You're asking guys to play a position they've never played before at a HIGHER LEVEL than people who are in the NFL while playing that position their entire career. It's unfair to guys like Ayers and guys like Tebow. All coaches do is set players up for failure when they do that.
Fortunately, Ayers is now back on the line. Last year was his first true year on the defensive line, where he always belonged. I saw flashes from Ayers that make me believe that we have something special in him, and best of all, unlike Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers has more than 1 pass rushing move. Doom was a one trick pony. He bull rushed. If you couldn't stop it, he would get sacks, often time with them coming in bunches because a certain lineman couldn't stop him. However, if you could stop the bull rush, Doom was done. He was finished. He might has well have just stood on the sideline and had his backup play instead of him. He couldn't stop the run, he wasn't the best in coverage, but man, he could bull rush the hell out of anyone.
Ayers on the other hand is the exact opposite of a one trick pony. He has a swim move, he has a bull rush, he has a speed rush, he has a spin move, he has it all. Ayers is a fantastic run stopper and a better coverage option than Dumervil. Ayers is great in pursuit, and has the natural instincts to be able to sniff out the ball carrier. Ayers' issues don't stem from his talent, they stem from the fact that he has a high octane motor, but he needs to remember to always have his engine started. When Ayers wants to play, he's unstoppable. I relate him to Albert Haynesworth minus the attitude and without being a complete headcase. See, when Haynesworth felt like playing, you couldn't stop him. The same can be said about Ayers. When he remembers to start his engine, that racing pedigree comes out of him and he is unstoppable.
Recently, Ayers has switched from his unnatural Linebacker position to his natural Defensive End position, with a few rotations to the inside of the line. See, Ayers having his hand in the dirt is where he belongs and where he's comfortable. But the issues still remain. The issue is mainly that Ayers has to want to play every down like his hair is on fire (if he had hair that is). His lackluster attitude has landed him in JDR's doghouse. Del Rio sees Ayers' ability, which is why it is all the more frustrating when Ayers takes plays off, or doesn't try as hard as he should on certain plays. If you have a race car, you don't want a scared driver behind the wheel, you want a hungry driver who wants to squeeze every ounce out of that car. If Ayers can have that mentality, then the sky is truly the limit for him.
Above, you see the hurricane force that Ayers brings when he wants to. I am banking my hope and evaluation of Ayers on the thought that with Dumervil gone, Ayers will be hungry to show that he can be "the guy" on the line. Playing opposite of Von Miller and on the same line as Wolfe should motivate him to play like his life depends on it. Ayers is quick off the line and in my opinion, he can put more pressure on the QB than Dumervil did. Will Ayers be able to 100% replace Dumervil? If his head is screwed on right and he decides to follow Derek Wolfe's example by playing every down like it is his last, then I honestly believe that Ayers can have double digit sacks and make all of us forget about Dumervil. If he doesn't, then we'll continue to see a sack here, a sack there from Ayers, and he'll never get a 2nd contract from us.
But I have to believe that Ayers will be motivated. For the first time in his NFL career, he'll not only be playing his natural position, but also counted on to be THE guy on the edge of the line, instead of just A guy on the edge of the line. I think that mentality and that responsibility will once again light the fire under him that we saw in Tennessee. It's time for Ayers to once again be the big man on campus. Playing with Wolfe and Miller should only open things up for him the same as they did for Dumervil. Like Andy Dufresne said in Shawshank Redemption, "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best thing..." Like he had hope, so do I. I HOPE Ayers steps up, I HOPE Ayers becomes a dominant player for us, and I HOPE that he doesn't make me look stupid for putting so much faith in him.