There was some pleasant optimism surrounding a Buccaneers rookie heading into training camp and that rookie did not disappoint in his first game in pewter. No, I am not talking about quarterback Jameis Winston. Instead, I’m talking about rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander.
In our preseason preview this past Saturday, we talked about how Alexander is a player to watch against Minnesota and he showed why. The LSU product was flying around the field against the Vikings and played in nearly half of all the defensive snaps.
On Monday, when Tampa Bay returned to the practice fields for training camp, Alexander was bumped up to work with the starters for practice.
“What happens when you make plays? You get an opportunity to get more plays,” head coach Lovie Smith said about Alexander practicing with the first team. “We are looking at different combinations. It’s what we are doing. We wanted to see him working with the different groups today. That’s what we got. We are very pleased with what he has done as a rookie. Rookies though have a long way to go to start. He’s doing some things to make us notice.”
And those things were noticeable by everyone watching Saturday night. Some felt he could have done more, but he excelled in a limited capacity.
The 21-year-old Alexander was asked about his performance against Minnesota and provided his take on how he did.
“I had a pretty good game,” Alexander. “I’ve always got a chance to get better. I’m just coming out to practice to get better. Today I was with the ones. So I’m out here grinding, man, trying to get my role and make the team better. That’s it.”
Alexander was the starting outside linebacker for two years at LSU so Tampa Bay giving him looks at middle linebacker at practice could present some challenges for a rookie. While he admits that to be the case, is fine with playing both positions.
“I can play either [inside or outside linebacker]. Wherever coach wants me to play, I’m going to play. But the middle is harder because you’re the key of the defense. You’ve got to call everything out so everybody knows their roles. Just talking is the key to the defense.”
The Buccaneers are still evaluating players and seeing who fits where best. If Alexander practices well throughout the week, he can find himself the starter for next Monday’s matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals at home. If he performs well, veteran linebacker Bruce Carter — who was acquired this offseason — could find himself watching from the bench on Sundays.