Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Is Kwon Alexander One Of The Elite Middle Linebackers In The Game?

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Kwon Alexander was awarded the game ball after his performance on Sunday. (USATSI)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had one of the greatest linebackers to play the game in Mr. Derrick Brooks. What made him a great linebacker? The ability to make tackles all over the field? A knack for creating turnovers? Being able to drop back in coverage? The correct answer, of course, is all of the above.

These are three boxes that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker Kwon Alexander  checks in a big way. He’s fast, physical, and one of the best young players in the game. In fact, since he entered the league in 2015, Alexander has been one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL. Here’s how he matches up to some of the best in the game during that time.

Tackles

In the last three years, Alexander has been a tackling machine. In fact, he’s been one of the very best in the NFL. His sideline to sideline speed, plus his ability to read plays, have allowed him to average 8.3 tackles per game. For comparisons sake, here are how some of the other top middle linebackers in the league did in the same three year span:

Luke Kuechly – 9.0 tackles per game

Bobby Wagner – 8.8

Preston Brown – 8.2

Zach Brown – 7.8

C.J. Mosley – 7.4

Ryan Shazier – 7.1

Eric Kendricks – 6.9

This would rank Alexander third in tackles per game over the last three seasons among middle linebackers in that same time frame. However, this is just one aspect. Let’s see how he stacks up in the other most important areas of the position.

Turnovers

The ability to create turnovers can drastically change the outlook of a game. Linebackers can do this by dropping into coverage to get interceptions, or by jarring the ball loose to cause a fumble. I call these forced turnovers. In the last three years, Alexander has 10 forced turnovers (six interceptions and four forced fumbles). Here is how that ranks comparatively.

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Shazier – 14 forced turnovers

Kuechly – 12

Mosley – 11

Wagner – 5

Z. Brown – 5

P. Brown – 4

Kendricks- 3

Again, Alexander stacks up very well with the best in the game. In fact, he was much better than most in the same time span. Let’s look at one more stat before we jump to conclusions about Alexander’s place among the best linebackers in the league.

Coverage

When you play in a division with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan you have to be able to drop back into coverage effectively. Alexander does just that. His quickness and agility serve him well and help to make him one of the best coverage linebackers in the league. His 20 pass breakups are a reflection of this. Want to know how that compared to his peers? Fine, I’ll tell you.

Shazier – 24 passes defended

Mosley – 23

Kuechly – 20

Wagner – 16

Kendricks – 16

Z. Brown – 9

P. Brown – 8

What does it mean?

Stats aren’t everything, but it’s telling that Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander ranks near the top of all the significant statistical categories that you would want a middle linebacker to be strong in. I’m not here to proclaim that Kwon Alexander has arrived or that he’s definitively a top five middle linebacker in the game. Frankly, I’d rather let his play speak for itself. I’m just here to point out the facts. As they say, “I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin”.

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