Robert Ayers has played with a lot of elite quarterbacks, including Peyton and Eli Manning. He knows greatness when he sees it – and he sees it with second-year quarterback Jameis Winston.
“The best thing about Jameis, I think, is the fact that he wants to be great,” the Bucs defensive end said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “A lot of people have talent, a lot of people have natural ability and some people are just smart. They can pick up things easier. But his drive and his passion is to be great. He wants to win. He wants to bring a group of guys together and to be focused on one goal together. That’s what he represents. He represents a competitor and a winner, a lot like a lot of quarterbacks that I’ve had. Tim Tebow, he wasn’t necessarily the caliber of player as these other guys, but he was the ultimate competitor. Peyton Manning was the ultimate competitor, Eli Manning was the ultimate competitor, and Jameis Winston, he’s the same way. All four of those guys had success in this league. That’s what I see in him and that’s what I love about him.”
Winston, Ayers and first-year head coach Dirk Koetter are trying to lead the Bucs to their first playoff appearance since 2007. Tampa Bay went 6-10 last season, this after going 6-26 in their previous two seasons combined.
Koetter, who last year served as the Bucs’ offensive coordinator, is a no-nonsense guy who seems like perfect fit for Tampa Bay’s younger roster.
“He reminds me a lot of Coach Coughlin,” Ayers said. “He’s not going to sugarcoat anything. He’s going to tell you what he believes, he’s going to tell you what he thinks, and it’s up for you to dissect his message. A lot of times it’s a good message and he’s really clear on what he’s trying to get across. He’s a competitor and he wants to win. He holds the offense to a high standard. He holds Coach (Mike) Smith, the defensive coordinator, to a high standard. That’s how he really is. He doesn’t necessarily do a lot of talking. He’s just, ‘This is what it’s going to be, and we’re going to get it done. If you ain’t on board, get off the boat.’ That’s how he is and that’s why I love him. He’s a real hard-nosed, straightforward, straight-shooting guy.”
Ayers was also asked about kicker Roberto Aguayo. The second-round pick was 267-of-276 (96.7 percent) on field goals and extra points at Florida State, making him the most accurate kicker in college football history. Aguayo was a little spotty early in the preseason, but Ayers isn’t worried.
“I think he’s going to be a great player,” Ayers said. “I think he can be a Pro Bowl kicker. By the time he leaves, he’s going to be considered one of the best in the game. You can’t tell me any rookie that hasn’t came in and had some (bad) plays. You look at Vernon Hargreaves or Noah Spence or any other rookie you want to look at, they have their troubles. It just so happens with the kicker the spotlight is on him because he only sees that one play. You only see that extra point. You only see that field goal. Every rookie has their struggles and he had his, but I don’t think that’s going to define him throughout his career. I think he’s going to go on and be great, and I expect him to be one of the best kickers in this game. I’ll be truly surprised if he’s not at a high percentage – 90 to 95 percent – this season. That dude is just that good.”