The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have struggled to generate a pass rush, but one Buccaneer is one of the best pass-rushers at his position: Kwon Alexander. Too bad the middle linebacker isn’t actually an edge rusher, but a blitzer.
The Pro Football Focus crew thinks he’s been the second-most effective rusher from a linebacker position (edge rushers not included).
Through 10 weeks of the season, the third-year linebacker has been disruptive on limited pass-rushing action, and produced three hits and three hurries on the 15 snaps where he’s been asked to rush the passer. After showing promise in the pass-rush, the Bucs should maybe look to utilize him more going forward, especially as the team has two games left the Atlanta Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan. Through his team’s nine games, Ryan has posted a passer rating of 104.9 when kept free from pressure in the pocket, the league’s 12th-best mark. However, that passer rating tumbles all the way down to 66.8 when pressured, 20th among signal-callers.
Of course, that’s a very small sample to base any conclusions on, but Alexander’s been pretty productive as a blitzer in his career, producing three sacks in each of his past two seasons. Much like Lavonte David, he uses his speed and agility to get past interior linemen used to dealing with bigger, more sluggish defensive tackles.
Unfortunately, the Bucs don’t actually use this skill much. Like Lovie Smith before him, Mike Smith isn’t much of a blitzing head coach, preferring instead to rush with four defenders with some form of zone coverage behind. That hasn’t worked well for the Bucs this season, though, in part because their four-man rush really isn’t getting home. You need some dominant edge rushers to make this strategy work, and the Bucs haven’t had one of those in over a decade.
Instead, they could try to get to the passer by using their linebackers as blitzers more frequently, and more frequently. They have three linebackers who are capable of making an impact in that way, after all. They just don’t use them enough.