View some of the top photos of DE Robert Ayers from the 2017 season.
Defensive linemen often go underappreciated throughout the season, which makes defensive tackle Gerald McCoy's six-time Pro Bowl selection (and captaincy this year) even more impressive. They're often judged solely on the flashy sack total stat, but again, as is the case with McCoy, that stat is far from telling of the whole story. Part of the argument for McCoy's Pro Bowl selection was his disruption of opposing quarterbacks: he led the team in quarterback hits in 2017. The guy right behind him in totals? Defensive end Robert Ayers Jr.
Ayers had 16 quarterback hits this season to add to McCoy's 24. The one thing Ayers did that McCoy didn't? Force fumbles. He had two forced fumbles this season, which is the most of any defensive lineman and third-most on the team in 2017.
He forced a fumble in the Week 9 contest against the Saints during his most productive game of the season. He registered the only sack on quarterback Drew Brees during the game, dropping the signal caller for a loss of seven yards and stripping the ball in the process. He also managed five tackles during the game, including four solo.
The nine-year NFL veteran recorded his highest tackle total as a Buccaneer this season, upping his total from 29 in 2016 to 31 in 2017. His 31 tackles were his second-highest total in the past six seasons.
That total is even more significant considering Ayers missed a total of four games in 2017. After suffering a concussion in the Week 11 game at Miami, Ayers was held out the next two games. He returned for Weeks 14 and 15 against the Lions and Falcons, before missing the last two games of the season as he battled a shoulder injury.
As part of the Buccaneers' player programs initiative this season, Ayers invited a local Boys and Girls Club to the Buccaneers' Week 4 matchup against the New York Giants at home to be part of his "Ayers Jr.'s Juniors" group. The defensive end regularly supports Bay area organizations that service local youth and provide resources to help them reach their full potential. His community passion stems from attending a Boys and Girls Club growing up in New Jersey.
Ayers finished the 2017 season playing in 12 games and registering 31 total tackles, 20 of which were solo, 2.0 sacks and two forced fumbles.