Akeem Ayers Brings Uncertainty, But Could Bring More to Patriots

After more than three seasons in Tennessee, Akeem Ayers has arrived in Foxborough. But his purpose remains to be seen. (Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports Images)

After more than three seasons in Tennessee, Akeem Ayers has arrived in Foxborough. But his purpose remains to be seen. (Jerome Miron – USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

Akeem Ayers played 10 snaps over two games for the Tennessee Titans this season, and he was inactive for five more. But the New England Patriots saw something in the 2011 39th overall draft pick; something that could potentially help a depleted front seven at minimal expense.

Time will tell if that something pays off.

There is reason to temper expectations for a 6’3” 255-pound linebacker that took only sixth-round pick to acquire – along with a seventh-rounder – from Tennessee on Tuesday afternoon. Yet there is also reason to expect Ayers will have a purpose in New England’s defense if he can acclimate to it.

Given the reliance on Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, who combined for over 160 snaps in Week 7 after captain, communicator and middle linebacker Jerod Mayo was lost for the season in Week 6, there is a need for him if he is able.

To date, undrafted rookie Deontae Skinner has been tasked with handling inside linebacker duties in the 3-4, while Chris White and Ja’Gared Davis – waived in correspondence to Ayers’ arrival – have been branded linebackers only in title, making the 45-man gameday roster for their efforts in the kicking game.

But the attrition hasn’t ended there. With 3-4 outside linebacker and 4-3 defensive end Chandler Jones set to miss the next four weeks, as The Boston Globe’s Shalise Manza Young first reported, needs are revealing themselves at multiple positions.

Ayers’ past versatility and athleticism saw him step in as different pieces in Tennessee’s puzzle. He was well-regarded for his experience as a strong-side linebacker, an off-ball linebacker and a defensive end in four-man fronts.

Even so, it is fair to wonder what happened to the former UCLA Bruins edge-rushing standout since then. It’s fair to wonder how he fell out of favor in a defense he was integral to not long ago.

Ayers played in all 16 games through his first three NFL seasons, notching 43 starts in the process. And as a second-year pro in 2012, he massed 104 total tackles, six sacks, a forced fumble and an interception, before going on to rank as Pro Football Focus’ fourth overall 4-3 outside linebacker a year later in 2013.

He could run, he could stop the run, he could get into the offensive backfield, and he could drop back into the defensive backfield.

Yet as the Titans’ staff underwent renovations in the offseason, Ken Whisenhunt took over as head coach and Ray Horton took over as defensive coordinator. The shift in plans resulted in a shift in scheme, moving from the 4-3 to a 3-4 base.

Not all the pegs fit into the same holes.

Not all surgeries fit into the recovery time, either. Ayers underwent his own renovations after last season concluded, heading in for two separate operations on his patellar tendons.

Somewhere between then and now, the 25-year-old found himself out of the team’s plans. He found himself on the sidelines, as Wesley Woodyard, Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, Shaun Phillips, Avery Williamson, Zaviar Gooden and Quentin Groves all got an opportunity to fill the Tennessee linebacker spots.

Perhaps it was warranted. Perhaps Ayers was not suited for the future of the Titans as he embarked on the final year of his rookie contract. Perhaps he wasn’t the same player who looked the part despite battling knee injuries only a season prior.

It is uncertain what Ayers is now. But for head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots, there is no harm in finding out what he is.

And right now, he’s No. 52.

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14 Responses to “Akeem Ayers Brings Uncertainty, But Could Bring More to Patriots”

  1. acm says:

    Like the upside in Ayers and the price is low enough – likely moving down 10-15 picks, tops – to make this an intriguing move.
    He was becoming a pretty important part of a good Titans D into the 2013 season when he had to play thru niggling knee injuries, resulting in a down year for him. After that with all the changes taking place in Nashville, for whatever reason he became expendable.
    Expect good things from him if he manages to stay injury-free. Should help out both with the pass-rush and depth issues at LB.

  2. steve earle says:

    Some good prospects here Dan I just think where you have placed them is suspect at this time though that admittedly could change. As I see it Brown @ NT is to high, Diggs WR and Everett CB to low the rest are not unreasonable though personally have other names on my board rated higher at the positions where you have yours. That’s just a personal assessment based on what I read so you may turn out better then I. Still thanks for the names for fans to look into.

  3. Bom Trady says:

    last thing we need is another player with 2 broke knees. plz bring in Michael Sam cuz were without jones for a month…. get rid of that bum Jake Bequette and Vincent Jackson we already robbed buccs of errything they had y not some more!!!!!

    • GM-in-Training says:

      I don’t think Michael Sam is the answer. He seems like a hard worker and a high character guy, but he overachieved in college and doesn’t measure fast or athletic enough to make it in the NFL. The Rams and the Cowboys had extra reasons to give him a chance and still couldn’t keep him.

      Even if he does latch on somewhere and improve, he doesn’t seem to be the force the Pats need this year.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Ayers had both knees cleaned up. If given a chance you will like what he can do. He can to a lot like what Hightower can do.
      I do agree with Michael Sam especially with Jones being out a month. He can rush the passer
      and is a all effort type player.

    • steve earle says:

      Understand the broken knees concern but for a 6th, (? if conditional?) I’m willing to have a look. What I object to is high round draft picks used to take injury prone guys, drives me nuts.

  4. Dan Sullivan says:

    Now is the time for James White to show his stuff after a senior year of 1,444 yds and 39
    receptions. Ayers and Branch will be the pieces the Patriots need to fill to make this a
    Super Bowl winning team.

    Keep an eye of following College Players for to be possible future Patriots.
    1 Malcom Brown NT Texas
    2 Javorius Allen RB USC
    3 John Theus OT Georgia
    4 Stefon Diggs WR Maryland
    4 Ronnie Stanley OT Notre Dame
    5 LaDarrell McNeil S Tennessee
    7 Derrick Malone OLB Oregon
    7 DeShazor Everett CB texas A&M

    Very good for BB sending Revis home for being late as he is going against two of the very best Wide Receivers in the game that the Bears have. Keep him focused BB.

    • steve earle says:

      White is akin to Vereen in style so don’t expect he will be called up any time soon barring injury to Vereen. It could be interesting to think about he and Vereen on the field at the same time in the right situations, might give defenses something else to worry about.

      • steve earle says:

        So, as soon as I make a prediction with my all wise and knowing self I’m proven wrong again. White is brought up and even played today. It has to be a plot!!!!!!!!!

        • acm says:

          yep, and the plot is called – “run the ball on an already soft D that’s missing two starting LBs on top of everything else”. 😉

        • steve earle says:

          yes acm, and that will be the oppositions constant formula against us the rest of the year. Keep Brady off the field and the games close. Kind of points out the need for one or two inside guys who can stuff the run and collapse the pocket in the next draft.

  5. CC says:

    *Hopefully eyes are kept upon OLB Jabaal Sheard(CLE) as well throughout the season, is he not a F.A. upcoming 2015?
    This in addition of 2015 F.A. Nick Fairley DT (LIONS) In RE: Defense.

    *Ndamukong Suh of course (LOINS) is also a 2015 F.A. dare I say….That’s the type of “Teddy Washington SPLASH addition” this team’s DFence need’s and would be great, not only working beside Big V.Wilfork in what’s seemingly his last cpl of NFL years. Pretty big price tag on Suh for sure, but so is the one on Gronk….especially considering when he actually available. Nevermind if he’ll even be back to PART-TIME PREVIOUS FORM WHEN HE IS AVAILABLE.
    I’m pretty sure He’ll be not minded at all for Stafford and their Offensive crew in a trade at the end of the year either.
    I’d trade Gronk + a pick for Suh’ ALL DAY long before the begining of next year if it meant bringing Suh to New England so he and Big V could straight steam role opposing offensive lines for a cpl years as Vince is in retirement is undoubtedly around the corner.

    Having two monsters on our teams DLine would severely lessen the worry regarding the rest of the team and it’s position player’s LB’s & DBack’s alike.

    • steve earle says:

      SUH would bring with him a cap busting price too. The other side of that coin is he draws far, far to many personal foul flags for my liking. More a ME player then a team player so I’ll not hold my breath on that possibility as it’s slim to none.

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