FOXBORO, Mass. — Akeem Ayers was placed in a nearly impossible situation Sunday, but the New England Patriots — and Chicago Bears — made the linebacker’s life much easier.
Ayers was traded at midseason — a tough task in any sport, but an exceptionally difficult one in football with thick playbooks, unfamiliar terminology and different coaching styles.
The linebacker played just four days after the deal was made official and had to learn in 96 hours what took the rest of the team three months of OTAs, minicamp, training camp and preseason to procure.
“(The Patriots) made it pretty easy for me,” Ayers told NESN.com on Wednesday. “I put a lot of studying in, just meeting after with the coaches, doing a little studying on my own and just trying to make it as simple as I can in my head to play on the field. And the guys, (Dont’a) Hightower, Jamie (Collins), (Rob Ninkovich), all of those guys are helping me on the field with communication and things like that. They made it a lot easier for me.”
The Bears also aided Ayers by being completely annihilated by the Patriots, allowing the fourth-year pro to play many more snaps than he expected. Already leading 24-7, the Patriots inserted Ayers into the game on defense for the first time with 1:47 left in the first half. He played 32 total snaps in his Patriots debut, a 51-23 win over the Bears.
“That’s definitely helpful,” Ayers said about his bonus playing time. “It was good for me. I needed to get those reps back in, just to get back to game speed.”
Ayers played just 10 snaps with the Tennessee Titans this season after falling out of favor because of offseason knee surgery and a scheme change from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Ayers spent the majority of his snaps Sunday standing up and rushing off the edge, filling injured defensive end Chandler Jones’ role. Ayers shined, recording a sack and leading the team in total pressures.
Rushing the passer was a nice starting point in the Patriots’ system, especially in a blowout, because of the simplicity of the role.
“If you just had a basic concept of defense down, (the) only difference really is the terminology. Then once you pretty much understand what the terminology is, at the end of the day, it’s pretty much all the same thing,” Ayers said about rushing off the edge. “It’s just on you, learning the terminology, and they might play the techniques a little different, but other than that, once you catch on to that, and once you get a few more snaps in practice and get to watch the film and go over it, and just talk over it with the teammates, you’ll catch on pretty quick.”
Ayers is perfect for the Patriots because he can fill in for Jones and linebacker Jerod Mayo, who was lost for the season with a knee injury. Ayers started at strong-side linebacker during his first three years with the Titans and moved to pass rusher in their nickel defense.
“I believe I’m able to do multiple things,” Ayers said. “I think that’s the best part about me being here, because they have some guys down, and they need some guys to fill certain positions, and whatever that is, I’m able to adjust quick and learn quick and able to fill certain voids — whatever they need weekly.”
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
Powered by WordPress.com VIP