TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose not to add a defensive tackle during this year’s draft, opting instead to stand pat on what some believe to be an area of need.
But was defensive tackle really that big of a need, or did the Bucs actually add one of the better defensive tackles in football when they signed free-agent lineman Robert Ayers?
Ayers has often been the player scouts compare Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa to, because Bosa, like Ayers, is considered a power rusher capable of working either inside at tackle or on the edge.
Indeed, 2.5 of Ayers’ sacks last year came on plays in which he was lined up inside, and it’s likely now that with the addition of end Noah Spence, the Bucs will opt to work Ayers inside on some passing downs.
Ayers even hinted at the prospect shortly after signing with the Bucs when he lauded the Giants for getting the most out of him last year by finding suitable matchups for him inside and outside.
“I think that’s something that (the Bucs) saw that I do extremely well,’’ Ayers said of kicking inside. “I referenced to it earlier, but that was something I wasn’t allowed to do early in my career.
“If you go back to my time at Tennessee, whether it be the Senior Bowl or in college, that was something that I did. And when I first got to the (NFL) I wasn’t always given that opportunity.
“But I credit (Giants) coach (Tom) Coughlin and (defensive line) coach Robert Nunn and ‘Spags’ (defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) because they knew that was what I did.
“And I definitely think I’m in a situation here where they’re going to try to utilize me the way Coach Nunn and Coach Spags did. I think they’re going to put me in position to be successful.’’
At the very least, Ayers give the Bucs flexibility. It’s possible then that on some passing downs the Bucs could have Ayers and Gerald McCoy inside and Spence and Jacquies Smith or Will Gholston on the outside.