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SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.
FAB 1. It’s Alexander’s Defense Now
I credit Tampa Bay’s middle linebacker Kwon Alexander for saying what needed to be said during his press conference on Thursday.
“Yeah, I am a leader of this defense,” Alexander said. “I am the middle linebacker. I speak my mind regardless of what it is, and I feel like I should open my mouth more, so I have been doing that more since I got here(for voluntary workouts) and that is what I am going to keep doing.”
Alexander, a team captain who is entering his fourth season in the league after his first Pro Bowl selection, is taking over the Bucs defense. That’s not to say that Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy still won’t be a leader or that fellow team captain Lavonte David will step into the shadows of leadership by any means. But it means that Alexander, who is tied with David with the most tackles in Tampa Bay with 335 over the past three years, is taking ownership of the defense.
Accountability was a big problem last year on Tampa Bay’s defense, and it was something I addressed in an SR’s Fab 5 column back in January when I called for McCoy to step up or step aside as the leader of the Bucs defense and let Alexander take over.
“So what I’m suggesting is McCoy do one of two things – radically change his leadership style or step aside and turn the defense over to Alexander, who seems ready to take on more of a leadership role entering his fourth season with Pro Bowl credentials. Alexander is more of a gritty bad ass, and his brand of vocal leadership and fiery demeanor is more reminiscent of that of [Hardy] Nickerson and [Warren] Sapp than McCoy’s style is. … McCoy is a classy, tough, goofy, friendly guy in addition to being an elite football player. He’s caught some grief from fans for not being angry or mean (i.e. not being Sapp) and for helping opponents up after plays and for smiling and shaking hands with them after games – otherwise known as sportsmanship. But what I don’t know – because I’m not in the locker room more than an hour or two each week nor am I on the practice field – is if McCoy is willing to speak out and get in a guy’s face, ruffle some feathers, step on some toes to hold someone accountable.”
McCoy admitted he failed in that area last year in a radio interview on 620 WDAE.
“I think myself and Lavonte, we take a lot of blame for that,” McCoy said. “Not doing enough in the room or at practice. If this thing is going to change, we need to take this thing over and make sure it changes.”
McCoy didn’t particularly care for me using his own words, and the tough love that I offered up in that column. He took to Twitter to call me out without mentioning me by name, and blocked @PewterReport from following him on Twitter for what was the first, or perhaps second, critical column I’ve ever written about him after eight years of pretty positive coverage since he’s been in Tampa Bay where I’ve often defended him against harsher critics.
That’s McCoy’s prerogative, and I take no offense to it and hold no ill will towards him. If he’s taking that column personally and it’s helping to light his fire for 2018, then so be it. It’s my job as a reporter to hold the people on this football team and in this organization accountable for their actions for my readers – you, the fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Regardless, the message was sent – and apparently Alexander heard it loud and clear. He’s ready to step up and be the leader on Tampa Bay’s defense and hold his teammates accountable from Day One of the offseason program. But I suspect this was Alexander’s plan all along and he didn’t need any column from me to know that he was ready take over, especially coming off his first Pro Bowl.
“Yeah, that’s the first thing that we talked about as soon as we got back in the building is holding everybody accountable,” Alexander said. “Everybody needs to know what they are doing and being on the same page and like I said, communication. That is one of the biggest things for us, so we are going to do that. As long as we do that, like I said, we are going to be hard to beat.
Alexander has made his presence felt as the team leader in the offseason conditioning program this week in McCoy’s absence. These workouts are voluntary, and McCoy, who is a workout machine, typically does some training on his own in San Diego with New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and Philadelphia running back Darren Sproles among other NFL players.
McCoy is expected to show up at One Buc Place in the next week or two to join his teammates. When he returns, Alexander said he’s going to try to get McCoy to up his intensity even more.
“Gerald and Sapp are two different people,” Alexander said. “Sapp is more of a trash talker and he’s going to get in your face. Gerald is more of a guy who is going to dog you and he doesn’t have to be mean. He’s going to hit you. He might help you up because he’s just Gerald, he’s a great person. I feel like this year he’s going to put a lot more dog into it. I already talked about it. I said, ‘Hey I need you to have a little more dog,’ but he’s going to get to it. He’s a great player, as you all know. He’s All-Pro, always going to the [Pro Bowl] so, he’s going to do a great job. Just wait and see, you’re going to see him.
“He’s already a dog, but he’s just not a talker. I’m a talker. I’ll talk trash every play. That’s what I’m built off of. I’ve been doing that since little league. So, everybody is different, everybody plays the game different. He’s just a different guy, man. You can’t just change somebody because you want them to change. He’s still going to get at the quarterback and make big plays. I’m just going to try to get him to talk more smack. Do a little something. He’s a great player, man. He’s going to do an awesome job this year.”
McCoy, who is a tremendous lead-by-example kind of player, has said repeatedly that he’s not a big rah-rah, pre-game speech guy. He’s done it on occasion when the team has needed him to do it, but that’s a role that Alexander is better suited for and will likely take on in 2018.
“I will do it more if I have to,” Alexander said. “Obviously I don’t’ think we’re going to need that this year. Like I said, everyone is being held accountable for what they need to be doing. So if they’re not doing it, then I’m going to get on their butt regardless of whoever it is.
“I’m going to be a leader of this team and I’m going to let people know I’m a leader of this team. I feel like everybody is behind me 100 percent and I’m going to be behind them 100 percent, too. As long as we’re on the same page, and if I have to get on somebody’s butt, I ‘m going to say it in a respectful way, not in a disrespectful way. I don’t want it to be anything else. I’m a man, he’s a man too, so as long as we’re cool, everything will be smooth.”
You heard the man. It’s Alexander’s defense now.