When I first asked Lorenzo Alexander about his shift to linebacker in the 2010 Redskins hybrid defense, he was matter-of-fact about the switch. “Just another job for the One Man Gang to do and learn,” he told me. “It should be fun.”
To my untrained eye, he’s looked solid making the switch, and he seems comfortable with it in his laid-back way. “It’s been coming pretty good,” he told me today. “Been learning the defense — that’s comin’ along real well — and I’m starting to feel more comfortable out in space. That’s the biggest thing. Most of the time we’re rushing, and that’s just like playing defensive end, but when you get out there having to read the routes and knowing who you’re passing off to and what your responsibilities are, that’s when it gets a little complicated.”
The one time I specifically noticed him in coverage, he was covering Chris Cooley downfield yesterday. When the pass went to Cooley, Alexander was just slightly out of position but managed to jump and get an entire hand firmly on the ball — which then bounced off and into Cooley’s arms. Alexander was furious about this — he’s not nearly as laid-back when he’s on the field.
“I was guarding Cooley,” Alexander explained, “and it ended up being man-to-man. He ran a 7 route, and I’m turning to look, and — I mean, when you’re looking for the ball you assume it’s being thrown to you, but he’s not throwing it to me. He’s throwing it to Cooley. So I kinda panicked a little bit and didn’t play it that well and got just my hand on it when I should’ve probably picked it off.”
Still, I suggested, you’ve been a linebacker for all of twenty minutes and you were downfield against a Pro Bowl tight end. Surely getting a hand on the ball is pretty good?
“I’m competitive,” Alexander said, shrugging. “It don’t matter where you’re at, whether you’re a Pro Bowler or a rookie. But it’s getting better, and I’m glad I’m gettin’ all those reps playing against a guy like a Cooley or a Donovan McNabb, who’s putting those balls in great places. When I get in the game, it’ll be that much easier for me.”
So that’s Alexander’s cautiously optimistic take on where he is. His new defensive coordinator, on the other hand, is not quite so measured.
Asked about Alexander today after the OTA session, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was effusive in a way usually reserved for phenomenal rookies who haven’t proven themselves as pros yet. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard a pro coach be so complimentary of a veteran player. Here, look:
“I think he’s been awesome,” Haslett said. “I mean, the guy’s awesome. He’s been unbelievable. He’s a better athlete that I would’ve ever guessed. If you told me [that] last year he played a three-technique, I woulda never guessed it. If you said he played linebacker, I woulda said he played linebacker. He’s 275 pounds, he’s ideal size for the position, he’s got good rush ability, and he’s unbelievably smart, he’s tough as nails … I mean, I love the guy. I think the guy’s outstanding.”
But wait! That’s only two awesomes, two unbelievables, and an outstanding — Haslett wasn’t done yet. Asked if Alexander had been the most impressive surprise of the OTA sessions, Haslett continued:
“He played so many positions last year — I mean, he played tight end, he plays defensive end, he plays on the line, he could probably play inside linebacker. I mean, the guy’s unbelievable. I think the transition that he’s made has probably taken us by surprise more than anything. I think the guy’s outstanding at what he does, and I think he could play any position he really wants to. Then he goes and plays nickel, he can be the spinner on third-down … he can do so many different things. That’s probably the [guy] that really caught you off guard.”
So to summarize: Awesome awesome, unbelievably unbelievable, outstanding, unbelievable … and Alexander is still disappointed in himself because he’s competitive. Yeah, I’ll take a few guys like that on my team.
Tags: Lorenzo Alexander
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