The Denver Broncos have a tremendous void to fill on defense with the departure of Pro Bowl defensive end Elvis Dumervil. It’s a void that accounted for 11 sacks on defense for the Broncos last season.
Early speculation had big names such a Dwight Freeney or John Abraham on the Broncos’ radar. The Broncos were also predicted in many pre-draft mocks to take either defensive end Bjoern Werner or Tank Carradine. Thus far – none have happened.
John Elway has proved to operate the Broncos with a method to his madness, leaving nothing to chance. When taking the reins post-Josh McDaniels apocalypse, Elway called his plan in Denver a several-year rebuilding program, asking fans for patience.
Denver won their first AFC West title that season. It’s as though a series of fortunate events were triggered the second Elway walked through the front offices in Dove Valley, and he now has the proverbial Midas touch.
An unaggressive and unconcerned Elway had many wondering if he didn’t already have something up his sleeve for the vacant DE position, an ace in the hole that he has not yet reveled. That was the only scenario that made sense, because to date when Elway sees something he wants, he aggressively pursues it and generally gets it. Case in point – Peyton Manning and Wes Welker.
Could that ace in the hole already be a member of the organization? What if that individual is a former first round pick that has shown glimpses but hasn’t yet lived up to the expectations of him when he joined the Broncos?
With their 18th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Broncos selected Tennessee Volunteer Robert Ayers. Ayers came to Denver as a high draft prospect. In fact, NFL Network Draft guru Mike Mayock said, “a few years from now, Ayers could be the best defensive player of this draft.”
This prognostication has not yet seen fruition.
Faulting immaturity and missed opportunities in a recent press conference, Ayers feels that “I am not satisfied with any of it (career), there’s a lot that I feel like I should of done.” When asked if the Ayers now could talk to himself as a rookie, he said, “Shut up and listen, don’t let things get to you. I wasn’t mature enough to handle the position I was in.”
Ayers seems poised, confident and now ready to turn a corner. “This is a big year for me, a big year for this team,” said Ayers “I am focusing on doing big things … I am more mature now, I can’t be mentally wounded anymore.”
In defense of Ayers, he has not been a mainstay in a position that best suits his skill set. Coming out of college, Ayers was a versatile player, but primarily played the end as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 or DE in the 4-3. To this point in his career, the Broncos have used him more on the interior defensive line.
Written off by most who are unfamiliar with the Broncos organization, Ayers was given Elway’s stamp of approval this week when he was named the starter at right end going into the season. Elway’s confidence coupled with Ayers experience and new-found maturity as an NFL player could be the perfect blend to vault Ayers to the pre-draft predictions given by Mayock.