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Kwon Alexander will miss Buccaneers' final four games with suspension

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to have to play the final four games of the season without their rookie middle linebacker, who has decided not to appeal his suspension, per Rick Stroud. Stroud and Roy Cummings both report that Alexander's four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs will start this week, meaning he'll miss the Bucs' final playoff push -- a hefty blow to a defense that's been up-and-down, but improving in recent weeks.

Alexander has claimed that his suspension was triggered by an energy drink he'd been consuming since high school, but the source doesn't really matter for the NFL's PED policy: athletes are responsible for what goes into their bodies regardless of how it gets there.

The rookie linebacker is having a very good year and has turned into a very reliable bulwark in the middle of the Bucs' defense, especially in recent weeks. Most of the struggles he had in coverage and run defense early in the season have disappeared, and he continues to make splash plays with three sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions on the season. Had he not been suspended for the final four games, he could have made a serious push for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Alexander will likely be replaced by either Bruce Carter, who's recovering from a concussion, or Danny Lansanah, who's been the team's main strongside linebacker this season. Carter has barely gotten on the field after being signed as the prospective starting middle linebacker this offseason, having lost that position to Alexander in the preseason. Lansanah's played reasonably well, although the splash plays he was renowned for last year have largely dried up. Either player is likely to represent a step down from Alexander given how well he's played over the past month, but his absence doesn't need to be a death knell for a defense that has become increasingly disciplined.