Barring another setback, and he is already one of at least three injured Buccaneers to have suffered one of those, defensive end Robert Ayers should make his Bucs home debut Sunday against the Raiders.
Though Ayers has officially been listed Friday afternoon as questionable for the game, he was at practice every day this week and even suggested strongly on Buccaneers radio on Thursday that he will play.
“This is my first home game as a Buc, other than preseason,’’ Ayers told T.J. Rives on Buccaneers Total Access. “I missed the others (games) so I’m excited to display my talents in front of this great Bucs fan base.’’
The return of Ayers couldn’t come at a better time, of course, as the Raiders will bring one of the league’s most prolific offenses into Raymond James Stadium.
The Raiders attack is churning out an average of 369.6 yards per game, 11th best in the league, while also scoring an average of 26.4 points per game, fifth best in the league.
You have to wonder, though, just how much of an impact Ayers will have on this game. After all, the Raiders have had little trouble handling the pressure presented by pass rushers this season.
The Raiders offensive line, which still includes former Bucs left tackle Donald Penn, has allowed Carr to be pressured on only 25 of the 280 dropbacks Carr has made so far this year.
That’s the third-lowest pressure rate in the league, according to the numbers crunchers at ProFootballFocus.com, which also ranks Carr among the league’s best when actually under pressure.
According to PFF, Carr has compiled a 75-percent completion percentage that’s third best in the league and an 86.0 passer rating this is fifth best in the league when actually under duress.
Carr has also been sacked just seven times while under pressure, a mark that ranks second-best in the league and confirms Carr’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly.
Of course, that’s where Ayers comes in. Though he may be limited to a certain number of snaps after missing the past month with a high ankle sprain, he should give the Bucs pass rush a bit of a boost.
That unit has recorded just nine sacks and 17 quarterback hits in the four games it has played without Ayers, who is likely to be teamed up alongside tackle Gerald McCoy on the inside on nickel downs.
That will allow the Bucs to use a combination of Noah Spence, Howard Jones and Will Gholston as their edge rushers on those obvious passing downs, which could help to make the Bucs pass rush a strength again.
Even against the Raiders.