Two weeks. One start. Two sacks. Two blowout wins.
Not a bad stat line for a linebacker who'd played only a handful of defensive snaps all season for a Tennessee team with a middling defense and a sub-par record.
But since joining the Patriots from the Titans via trade a week before the NFL deadline, former second-round pick Akeem Ayers has fit in quite nicely on the New England defense.
Ayers, a former starter for Tennessee who'd dealt with knee injuries and fallen out of favor with Ken Whisenhunt in the team's transition to the 3-4, has hit the ground running for a Patriots defensive front that needed a boost after injuries to Jerod Mayo (patella/IR) and Chandler Jones (hip).
The 6-3, 255-pound fourth-year veteran made his New England debut with 46 defensive snaps and 10 special teams plays in the blowout of the Bears just a few days after arriving at Gillette Stadium. He finished fourth on the Patriots defense that day with five tackles, including a 9-yard sack of Jay Cutler.
A week later, in Sunday's blowout of the Broncos, Ayers made his first start for the Patriots (his first in the NFL since 2013. New England threw a wide variety of fronts, coverages and schemes at Peyton Manning and Ayers was a big part of it playing 74 defensive snaps (92-percent). He notched a sack for the second straight week – New England's only sack of Manning on the day – and had three solo tackles.
According to Bill Belichick, Ayers ability to slide right into a key role on the Patriots defense was something the team hoped it might get in the trade but also partially came to fruition once the linebacker got to work in Foxborough.
"Akeem played quite a bit his first three years in Tennessee. I think he was somewhere around the 80 percent playtime range, something like that. So he's been on the field a lot. He's played a lot of snaps, then not so much this year. Whenever you get a player that you don't know like that, it wasn't like when we brought Deion Branch in from Seattle or that kind of situation at all. We didn't really know Akeem, so we've had to introduce him into our system and work with him, practice with him and so forth," Belichick admitted.
Once that process began, Ayers took the opportunity and took off with it.
"He's done a real good job," Belichick continued in is Monday morning conference call after breaking down the film from the win over the Broncos. "He's picked things up quickly. He's a sharp kid, works hard, very attentive, really wants to get things done right and tries to do them and communicates well with the defense. Part of that is us being familiar with him, him getting familiar with the defense, the players' communication, etcetera which, obviously, the defense was putting a lot of stress in that last night against Manning and the Broncos offense. I'd say it's a little combination of both. We'd seen him do it before, but not with us. There was definitely a gap to close here."
It's a gap that Ayers closed quickly, much like the gap he close between himself and the quarterback twice for sacks in his first two weeks as a Patriot.