Where does veteran defensive end Robert Ayers fit in the New York Giants 2015 defense? Let's take a quick look at Ayers as we continue profiling all 90 of the players the Giants will bring to training camp later this summer.
2014 Season in Review
Ayers signed a two-year free-agent contract with the Giants before last season, with the Giants hoping the former Denver Broncos first-round pick would provide them with a younger version of Justin Tuck, who went to the Oakland Raiders via free agency. Ayers was, arguably, having his best NFL season before he missed the final four games of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
In 12 games, Ayers had five sacks, a half-sack shy of his career-best. His +17.6 Pro Football Focus score was second-best on the Giants' defense behind Johnathan Hankins' +20.2 and fifth-best among all defensive ends. Ayers had a +18.8 grade rushing the passer. His pass rush productivity rating of 15.2 was the best in the league among defensive ends who played at least 25 percent of their team's defensive snaps. His run stop percentage was 9.1, eighth among 4-3 defensive ends.
2015 Season Outlook
The pure statistics should indicate that the Giants would have big expectations for Ayers. That, however, remains to be seen. There was word during the offseason that the torn pectoral was affecting his training, although to be fair it has been a couple of months since we have heard anything about Ayers. How healthy will he be entering the season? How far behind is he because of the injury rehab? If they are all healthy, how will defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo parcel out playing time for Ayers, Damontre Moore, George Selvie and maybe second-year man Kerry Wynn and rookie Owamagbe Odighizuwa.
Ayers, 30 in September, showed last season he can be a useful player. He can rush the passer. He can move from side to side and go inside on passing downs. Can he repeat his production from a season ago? That remains to be seen, but Ayers should be a valuable piece of the defensive end rotation for the Giants.