For Kwon Alexander, “Quarterback of the Defense” isn’t just a metaphor used to describe a middle linebacker. It’s a title that inspires his preparation.
Like Jameis Winston – the Bucs other second-year quarterback – Alexander arrives at One Buc Place around 6:30 a.m. to work one-on-one with his respective position coach and coordinator, learning the nuances of the defense and taking detailed notes. His dedication doesn’t go unnoticed by head coach Dirk Koetter.
“It’s great to see, when I’m going down the hall way every morning at 7 o’clock in the morning and he and Smitty (Mike Smith) are in there on the chalk board having a 45-minute one-on-one,” Koetter said after practice Monday. “It’s awesome to see Smitty at his desk and Kwon standing at the board with a grease pen in his hand. As a quarterbacks coach, to see Smitty and Kwon in there in the mornings does my heart good.
“I love Kwon’s attitude that he wants to be the Jameis Winston of the defense. For him to embrace it – because not all guys want that on them – that’s awesome.”
Alexander is definitely one of those guys that wants it. The second-year pro said his second offseason has been all business – not a lot of going out, but instead more note-taking and time spent with Lavonte David working out. Now, with training camp in full force, his routine involves a 5 a.m. breakfast, a 6:30 arrival time and 30 minutes of studying alone before taking his notes and questions to Smith’s office for private tutoring.
“I go up there with (Smith) and I get on the (white) board,” Alexander said Monday. “That’s been great. It’s making me a better player now. If I’d have been doing that (last season), some good things would’ve come out. So I can’t wait for the season to show y’all.
“Last year I was kind of smart, but wasn’t that smart,” Alexander continued, drawing laughs. “I was out there just playing because I had never played Mike (LB) before – it was just different. So when I got to this year, I told myself that I’m going to have to sacrifice for this team and for us to go to the Super Bowl and be the No. 1 defense, I’m going to have to get up early.”
It didn’t long for Alexander to prove his elite athletic ability last season. Throughout his first 12 games – where he was a force against the run and the Bucs’ biggest defensive play-maker – he constantly reminded everyone why he won the job over a $5 million-dollar veteran linebacker (Bruce Carter) in the first few weeks of camp.
His mission now is to become a smarter linebacker, and who better lead to follow than the franchise quarterback.
“I’ve been getting up early, me and [quarterback] Jameis [Winston] get up the same time, we leave at the same time,” Alexander said. “I told him before we got to camp, ‘I’m coming with you,’ and we’ve just been rocking ever since. He’s been doing good and I’ve been doing good, so it’s going to be a good season.”
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Getty Images
Alexander even had Winston, one of his closest friends on the team and someone he’s known since their days growing up in Alabama, serving as a liaison for information for him at the Pro Bowl. When Alexander would ask Winston questions about how to prepare last season, Winston would tell him that he’d gain more out of hearing from someone at his own position.
And when Winston earned a trip to Hawaii in February, he didn’t forget his own advice to Alexander. Instead, he took it upon himself to seek out Pro Bowl linebackers on his teammate’s behalf and relay back whatever information he gathered.
“I said, ‘Sean, (Cowboys LB Sean Lee) how can I get Kwon to be like you from a studying point?’” Winston said. “Because Kwon is always asking, ‘How do you study?’ And I say, “Man I’m not a middle linebacker, you have to ask (Panthers LB) Luke Kuechly or one of the main guys.’ So I talked to Sean Lee and got some information for him, and ever since then he’s been willing to be the quarterback for the defense and he’s been doing a great job.”
Alexander, drafted in the fourth round in 2015, had 93 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions over 12 games before his 4-game suspension. He was emerging as one of the Bucs defensive leaders and without him, coincidence or not, the team lost its last four games.
If he was that valuable as a rookie, imagine what kind of presence he can have on defense this season – now with improved team chemistry and a better understanding of his position and how to prepare.
“He knows his job. He knows his worth to this team and it’s very high,” Winston said. “He knows that we have to get better every day and the only way we’re going to get better is if everyone on the field is trying to better themselves every single day. He took that and ran with it. He’s trying to be a great linebacker. To me, he is. I’m always going to support him; he’s an Alabama boy. You love his heart. I’m glad that he’s making that transition.”
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
I like Kwon because he is a difference maker on the field. It’s hard to evaluate a LB in practice unless they create a splash play because no one tackles anyone to the ground and I didn’t see Kwon make any splash plays while I was at camp. However, I would say he was doing a solid job because I don’t remember any big runs up the gut of the defense. Here are a few more observations from when I was at camp this past Sat.-Mon:
– L. David did have a few splash plays, including breaking up a few passes and breaking through the line for a huge TFL on D. Martin on Monday. He looks to be in mid-season form.
– It’s a tough call for me between D. Martin and G. McCoy but when both are completely healthy as they were this weekend I would say G. McCoy is the most talented player on the team. He just does things to O-linemen that no other player at his position in the NFL can do from a standpoint of having such a quick first step. Not surprisingly, he was the player on the D-line that most consistently got pressure on the QB.
– Of all the rookies Spence impressed me the most. Hargreaves didn’t have any splash plays while I was there and in fact stood out only when he had gotten beat on a play, but it’s not like that happened more than what I would expect for a rookie CB. He looked solidly built and is about where I would expect him to be in his first training camp. It at least answered the question I had in my mind why he wasn’t running more with the 1st team defense yet. Aguayo seemed to miss one kick every day I was out there out of the 4 or 5 he attempted. Besides Spence, no other rookies stood out to me at all, including the FB we got in the 7th round. To me, what Spence did that was special was consistently get pressure on the inside, whether he was doing 1-on-1’s or playing 11-on-11. His speed off the snap rushing to the outside is pretty good, but nothing special and his bull rush is not effective. However, he uses these to set up a swim move to the inside that consistently either got pressure on the QB or created a sack. Personally I don’t care which of a pass rusher’s moves work so long as he gets to the QB when we need him to in a game. Spence looks like he will be a useful addition throughout this season, not just in the future. However, that’s if we get him enough snaps on the field back to back where he can set up O-linemen with his inside move. That will be the challenge because he certainly doesn’t have the size to be a 3-down D-lineman.
– More observations to come in other articles, particularly the secondary…
I am enjoying watching this young man grow. He has overcome a lot. That game against Atlanta, man, especially in light of his brother getting killed, was amazing. I wonder how in the heck he made to the 4th round of the draft?
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