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KevinJames
10-16-2009, 05:40 PM
More Than Meets The Eye
By Gray Caldwell
DenverBroncos.com

http://www.denverbroncos.com/resources/custom/Images/Top%20Stories/2009/ayers_ap_091016.jpg

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In football, perception isn't always reality.

Some perceived the Broncos to be a disappointing team before the season even started. Undefeated through five games, that couldn't be further from the truth.

In the same vein, some perceive Robert Ayers' impact on the football field so far this season to be miniscule. As far as linebackers coach Don Martindale is concerned, that's a short-sighted view.

"That's what fantasy football has done -- everybody's looking at tackles, assists and sacks and all that instead of actually watching the game and seeing some of the things that he does," Martindale said. "I think every snap, every play, he gets better."

Andra Davis said teammates have noticed that Ayers' improvement from week to week comes from a a strong will, a humble attitude and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get better.

"To come in as a first-round pick, to get thrown in that fire early and you're expected to make a contribution, that's tough for a lot of people, and I applaud him," Davis said. "I applaud his efforts and his approach to the game."

Part of that approach has been listening to his elders and accepting any pointers veterans pass his way. Teammates have lauded his preparation in the weight room and meeting rooms, but Davis believes Ayers' willingness to defer to those with more experience has been the most impressive part.

Ayers said that comes from his experience as a senior in college, when he saw younger players joining the team with a less-than-stellar attitude.

"There are five-star recruits coming into college and they think they know it all, then they get a rude awakening," he said. "So I didn't want that to be me coming here, first-round draft pick then get a rude awakening."

When Ayers arrived in camp, he avoided a rude awakening -- but he admitted his eyes were certainly wide open after seeing the skill level and speed of the game at the professional level.

He and Head Coach Josh McDaniels discussed him feeling out of place in the first couple preseason games, and it might have been easy to feel overwhelmed. But Ayers kept moving forward, soaking in everything he could to be ready when his number was called in the regular season.

In Week 1 at Cincinnati, he got that chance, and Martindale said he hasn't stopped improving since.

Through his first two NFL games, Ayers' contributions didn't show up in the stat sheet. But that doesn't mean he wasn't productive on a defense that is now the No. 2 overall unit in the league, leading the NFL in points allowed per game.

"Productivity is met in different ways," Martindale said. "He's doing a lot of good things in our team defensive scheme that people don't see and recognize."

A prime example of that came in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns. The defensive spotlight rightfully went to Elvis Dumervil, who finished the game with four sacks. But Ayers' active play at his outside linebacker/defensive end position was one of the reasons for the rest of the defense's success.

When discussing Ayer's production, one play from the game stuck out in Martindale's mind. With just more than 7 minutes left in the game, Ayers blitzed toward Brady Quinn on 3rd-and-1, forcing the left tackle to meet him. Ayers set the edge of the pocket, pushing his blocker toward Quinn and keeping him from scrambling. That gave Dumervil time to fight his way past the right tackle and sack the quarterback from behind.

Ayers' efforts, while overlooked in the stat sheet, are certainly noticed by his coaches.

"I'll say this -- he had a lot to do with a couple of Elvis' sacks because the quarterback didn't have anywhere to escape because of what Robert was doing on the other side," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "Although he didn't get the numbers, he still was very helpful in what Elvis did."

And it doesn't end there. In addition to setting the edge of the pocket, he is often taking on blockers so his teammates can make the play, staying in his gap to help prevent running plays or pushing his blocker around to move the pocket to suit the defense.

His position not only requires him to occasionally put his hand in the dirt and rush the quarterback, he is also called to stand up, blitzing or dropping back into coverage depending on the situation. That makes his job as a rookie even harder because he has to learn so many different aspects of his new position. At the same time, it means his coaches have a lot of faith that he can handle all of his responsibilities.

"We're asking a lot of him in some cases," Nolan said. "He probably wears more hats than some of the other guys because of his ability to be versatile."

Ayers himself said he's not where he wants to be yet, but he can feel himself improving on his technique and following his assignments week to week. His impact has even started showing up more and more on the stat sheet.

In Week 3, Ayers notched his first NFL tackle. In Week 4, he finished the game with two takedowns and a hit on Dallas quarterback Tony Romo. Last week against the Patriots, he made three tackles. That steady improvement has the rookie feeling more and more comfortable in his role.

"You try to contribute when you can and make the plays that come to you instead of going out of your way to make plays, because that's when you mess up the team scheme," Ayers said. "Sometimes you've got to be that guy that helps the next man make that play. I've learned that since I've been here, watching guys like Andra and D.J. (Williams), they're always feeding each other tackles -- one guy might turn it into the other guy, or vice versa."

So Ayers has done just that, helping his teammates rack up sacks and tackles while he stays true to the scheme.

"You try to always remember that someone else is depending on you to be in the right position," he said.

Meanwhile, his teammates are noticing that his ability to help out and disrupt plays might soon change into making the big plays himself.

"He's starting to come into his own a little bit and getting hits on the quarterback," Davis said. "All those things will turn into sacks after a while."

So while some will look at his stats and assume Ayers hasn't been active on defense, his teammates and coaches know otherwise. If things keep going Ayers' way, his stats might reflect that sooner rather than later.

"I have nothing but good things to say about Robert Ayers," Martindale said. "I think he's right on schedule."

I like what I am hearing from the coaches.

Bronco Warrior
10-16-2009, 05:50 PM
I pointed out to haters that bit about setting the edge for two of Doom's sacks actually the day after the game on B****ry..everybody said naw he's a bust. They re idiots! Ayers has learned the fundamentals of the position and his athleticism will start to show! The article doesn't include the reason Romo's pass on the famous 4th down was higher than intended...look at the video Ayers is skying for the pass and it goes right over his fingertips and into Turd! Trust me Ayers is a bigger part of our D success than the laman might think!

SportinOne
10-16-2009, 05:57 PM
Everything certainly is wonderful when your record is 5-0. While I understand that most rookies (even the ones who turn into hall of famers) dont' hit the ground running, this is your garden variety fluff.

Why hasn't your first round pick done much this year? "Well, he has. You see, by not sacking the quarterback he is giving other players opportunities to sack the quarterback."

Okay, so he's not a sack artist yet, he'll get better. How has he played in coverage? "He definitely has that responsibility. Yep, sometimes he definitely has to drop into coverage."

KevinJames
10-16-2009, 06:10 PM
Everything certainly is wonderful when your record is 5-0. While I understand that most rookies (even the ones who turn into hall of famers) dont' hit the ground running, this is your garden variety fluff.

Why hasn't your first round pick done much this year? "Well, he has. You see, by not sacking the quarterback he is giving other players opportunities to sack the quarterback."

Okay, so he's not a sack artist yet, he'll get better. How has he played in coverage? "He definitely has that responsibility. Yep, sometimes he definitely has to drop into coverage."

not really fluff if you can see him slowly making an impact and improving each game.:strong:

getting pressure doesn't really show up on the stat sheet unless you get the sack, that is all they are saying....

DBroncos4life
10-16-2009, 06:21 PM
I can only think of three OLBs that played well in there first year off the top of my head. One is a freak, one was using roids, and the other seems to be a fluke. Ware, Merriman, and Wimbley (Wimbley is playing very well this year though)

~Crash~
10-16-2009, 06:56 PM
Ayers is is going to be a damn fine player I say he is a MLB'er but we got a damn fine player.

Drek
10-16-2009, 07:07 PM
Everything certainly is wonderful when your record is 5-0. While I understand that most rookies (even the ones who turn into hall of famers) dont' hit the ground running, this is your garden variety fluff.

Why hasn't your first round pick done much this year? "Well, he has. You see, by not sacking the quarterback he is giving other players opportunities to sack the quarterback."

Okay, so he's not a sack artist yet, he'll get better. How has he played in coverage? "He definitely has that responsibility. Yep, sometimes he definitely has to drop into coverage."

It could be fluff.

Or you could be completely off base and sounding like someone who hasn't actually watched the last several games.

Ayers has gotten better every week. He's gotten more snaps every week. He's getting better penetration every week. But he's not showing promise?

Guy has all world physical abilities and more importantly the motor to do something with it. As his technique improves he's going to be at worst a good starter and potentially an all-pro.

BroncoMan4ever
10-16-2009, 07:17 PM
I pointed out to haters that bit about setting the edge for two of Doom's sacks actually the day after the game on B****ry..everybody said naw he's a bust. They re idiots! Ayers has learned the fundamentals of the position and his athleticism will start to show! The article doesn't include the reason Romo's pass on the famous 4th down was higher than intended...look at the video Ayers is skying for the pass and it goes right over his fingertips and into Turd! Trust me Ayers is a bigger part of our D success than the laman might think!

Ayers is a guy who's contributions haven't shown up in the stat sheet. like Jack Williams this past week. he had a huge game that quite possibly allowed us to win, but a lot of the things he was doing for us don't show up in the stat sheets.

there is more to playing defense than just tackles and sacks. and for a rookie he is getting better every week.

without him in Cincinnatti there is no way that Doom gets 4 sacks.

KevinJames
10-16-2009, 07:41 PM
I am gonna go out on a lim and say Ayers gets his first sack Monday.

Br0nc0Buster
10-16-2009, 07:57 PM
I knew he was a transformer

OLB for a 3-4 is tough for rookies that played end in college

Not only is he trying to adapt to the NFL, he is essentially learning two positions

Ive seen some good things from him though, he needs to keep improving

Just imagine if he could live up to his potential...him and Doom rushing the passer....:boner:

baja
10-16-2009, 08:32 PM
Maybe we can trade Moss

Eldorado
10-16-2009, 08:44 PM
I knew he was a transformer

OLB for a 3-4 is tough for rookies that played end in college

Not only is he trying to adapt to the NFL, he is essentially learning two positions

Ive seen some good things from him though, he needs to keep improving

Just imagine if he could live up to his potential...him and Doom rushing the passer....:boner:

Boner indeed.

Ayers is a beast.

Harvitz81
10-16-2009, 09:12 PM
Look how long it took Timmons and Woodley to make an impact in Pittsburgh. OLBs have a tough transition into a 3-4 as rookies.

That said, I have seen constant improvement from Ayers each week and definitely notice him on the playing field more. I agree with Drek. This guy will soon be a starter and potentially a great one at that.

anon
10-16-2009, 09:12 PM
Considering that many of our past defensive picks could barely get on the playing field, and that D-Line draft picks seem to have a high bust percentage, the fact that he is getting so much playing time during critical parts of games is very encouraging -- at least it doesn't seem like he is a liability.

If he can become a star, that would be awesome, but there's nothing wrong with getting a solid starter. If every first round pick turned into a superstar, the league would be full of them.