The Buffalo Bills thought they were getting the same Lorenzo Alexander the Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders all had before them.
It was logical since Alexander was always pretty consistent in what he brought NFL teams.
Buffalo thought they were getting a tremendous special teams player, a locker-room leader and a smart journeyman player when they signed the 33-year-old to a one-year minimum salary deal that included a meager $75,000 in guaranteed money. Predictably, the signing of Alexander late in free agency didn’t move the needle in Buffalo.
He was considered a fringe player who would likely enhance Buffalo’s special teams units because that’s what Alexander has made a career of. Yet, the darndest thing has happened this fall in Western New York.
Alexander became a starter and then he became an impact player. A big impact player. How big?
Alexander is leading the NFL is sacks, thanks for asking. There’s Von Miller – you know, the Super Bowl MVP and the newly minted $114.5 million man – second in the league with 7.5 sacks. That makes sense. After all, Miller had 60 sacks in his first five NFL seasons.
But there’s Alexander with 8 sacks. Eight sacks in six games by Lorenzo Alexander. Here’s some perspective: The Raiders, who Alexander played for last year and barely stepped on the field other than for special teams, have 8 sacks as a team this season.
Alexander is remaining humble as he continues his incredible season
“Just adding to the total,” said Alexander after adding to his sack total in a blowout win against San Francisco on Sunday. “That’s No. 8 for me, but that’s a team stat in my mind.”
How did this happen?
This is a guy who had a total of 9 sacks in his first 9 NFL seasons. Before this season, where the linebacker has started every game for the 4-2 Bills, Alexander made 16 career starts. And he had just 3 starts since 2010.
The Lorenzo Alexander story just doesn’t happen in the NFL. Players don’t find their groove in this unforgiving league. Usually, special teams players are done by the age of 30 and their thrilled. Scouts I spoke with chuckle in wonderment about Alexander’s season. They couldn’t see this coming. But the scouts give Alexander credit. He’s playing well.
Buffalo coach Rex Ryan has told reporters that Alexander’s unlikely late-career success is a matter of opportunity. Still, Ryan would be kidding himself if he thought Alexander would provide this type of defensive production when he was signed.
One of the reasons why Alexander is playing is because Buffalo first-round pick Shaq Lawson has been out all season with an injury. He is back to practice and could hit the field soon. Still, Ryan said Alexander will still be a big part of the Buffalo defense as a starter.
The Bills are hot and so is Alexander. The Bills don’t want to mess with that. Ryan said Alexander is a perfect fit for this team.
“He’s great with his teammates, he communicates extremely well,” Ryan told reporters this week. “Whether you rush him from an inside spot, an outside spot, wherever. He continues to do a great job. He drops. I don’t recall him ever bitching about dropping. … He’s smart enough to know what we’re trying to get accomplished.”
Alexander is not worried about Lawson coming in and taking his repetitions away from him. In fact, Alexander is looking forward to working with the Clemson star.
“I’m going to give him all the knowledge that I have,” Alexander told reporters this week about of working with Lawson. “I’m not insecure about my abilities, I think I’ve established myself in this league and what I can bring to this team. Obviously, a young talented guy like that, we drafted him in the first round for a reason and the coaches will integrate him into the scheme as needed and I’m all for it. I’m still out there on special teams, I’m just doing my job. I was brought here to be part of special teams, to be a rotational player, those guys went down and I stepped up and filled my role. And if that changes back to what they brought me here initially for, I’m fine with that. It’s all about winning.”
Ryan has made it clear Alexander is not going anywhere, well, other than the Pro Bowl perhaps.
“Guys, it’s funny, because is he a starter? He’s a starter,” Ryan told reporters, when asking about the team’s plans with Alexander moving forward. “We’ll worry about the other stuff later. But Lorenzo is a starter. I guess the big question right now is, ‘Is he going to start in the Pro Bowl?’ because that’s how he’s playing. I think he will.”
What a fitting ending for a wild, unexpected season that would be for Lorenzo Alexander.