Akeem Ayers can do a lot of things.
He simply would prefer to focus on one at a time.
That’s why the Tennessee Titans’ third-year linebacker looks forward to the 2013 season. Among changes to the defense, which include personnel and staff changes, is a more opponent-specific approach to his versatility.
“[I won’t be] bouncing all over the place,” he said recently. “Whether I’m rushing this week or I’m in coverage this week, I’m going to have more of a role, so to speak.
“When you know what you’re doing each week, you can really perfect what you’re doing.”
The 2011 second-round draft pick has averaged nearly 100 tackles in his first two NFL seasons. He also has recorded eight sacks, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass.
He was a starter at outside linebacker in the first game of his career but from the outset coaches also talked about his potential to rush the quarterback from a defensive end position in certain situations. They began to use him consistently in that manner last season, and he recorded five sacks in the last nine games.
“I’m going to have a lot more opportunities to get after the quarterback,” he said. “… At the times we’re going to be aggressive, I’m going to be able to be aggressive and get after the quarterback or just whatever it may be.”
His performance in 2012 (110 tackles, six sacks, four tackles for loss, one interception, one forced fumble) did little to help the defense’s overall performance.
The Titans gave up the most points in the NFL and allowed more first downs than all but two other teams. They were in the bottom third of the league rushing, passing and total yards allowed per game.
“I feel like we underachieved a lot last year,” Ayers said. “We gave up a lot of big plays, whatever the reason was. … We have to just believe in it and it has to be our attitude every time we take the field. We have to expect to win and expect to be good.
“…We’re going to have a more aggressive approach. We’re going to determine what the offense is going to do instead of the offense determining where they want to run or pass. We’re going to try to be the ones that determine it by being more aggressive.”
They also are going to force those offenses to determine what Ayers’ role is that particular week — and then stop him, particularly after he has had a full week of practice to focus on a specific role.
“We’ve got different schemes here and there and we’re doing a lot of different things,” he said. “…You get anxious seeing the new things we’re doing. You see how involved everyone is. You see how everyone’s really excited about this defense. That gets you really going and you can’t wait until the season starts.”