On Monday, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter described Kwon Alexander’s season as a “slow, steady climb.” On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Mike Smith echoed a similar assessment, saying that the second-year linebacker is “coming into his own.”
Last Sunday’s performance illustrated their points.
After a six-game stretch of recording five to seven tackles per outing, Alexander went off for 21 in Dallas, 11 in the first half and 10 in the second. And while tackles don’t always tell the full story – schemes often determine who finishes the play – this particular case shows a flourishing young player.
“I mean, you go against a team like Dallas and you’re closing in on 22 tackles – you’re playing some football,” Smith said, adding that Alexander’s best trait is his ability to run. “He was all over the field. I think he’s really going through a maturation process through this season and I’ve been very pleased.
“The arrow is definitely going up. He’s learning the game and he’s a very emotional player. He plays with a lot of passion.”
To that end, Smith said it’s also good to have another vocal leader on the defense along with Gerald McCoy, while Koetter credited that communication in part for the defensive improvement in recent weeks.
Though the unit appeared to take a step back in Dallas – allowing 464 total yards, including 185 on the ground – Alexander didn’t miss a beat. Along with 21 stops, the most since Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly recorded 24 in a game in 2013, Alexander also forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter of a one-score contest. The play would give the offense an opportunity to go down 45 yards and take a four-point lead.
Alexander, a fourth-round pick out of LSU in 2015, leads the NFL with 97 solo tackles. Add three sacks, seven quarterback hurries, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pick-six and it’s easy to see the rapid progression.
“He’s had all the talent necessary, that’s why he was able to step up and be put into a starting role early,” McCoy said of his teammate. “Now he’s actually learning about the game and what he needs to be looking at, reading his keys and reacting a lot faster. Kwon is only gonna get better. He’s another one of those guys that’s gonna be good in this league for a long time.”
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Getty Images
One thing that’s helped accelerate his development, McCoy added, has been lining up next to Lavonte David. The 2016 Pro Bowl alternate hasn’t put up the same numbers as he has in years past, but David is making critical plays. Along with a sack in Dallas, the outside linebacker forced two fumbles in back-to-back weeks before taking an interception back for six points in San Diego.
Like Alexander progress, McCoy attributed David’s success to his knowledge of the game.
“Him and Jameis are probably the two smartest guys on the team,” McCoy said of David. “I go to him all the time. I ask him stuff about what I’m doing sometimes. Having that next to [Kwon] has helped him out a lot.”
Alexander, for his part, credited his improvement to becoming “wiser,” which has everything to do with dedication to his craft and a desire to be great.
“(The game is) really slowing down for me,” Alexander said. “In the beginning of the season, I was moving too fast, but now I’m slowing down. It’s all working out for me … I put in a lot of hard work to get where I am now. When you put in hard work it pays off.
“If you want to be the greatest, you have to do whatever it takes to be the greatest. So that’s what I’m going to try and do.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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