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Kwon Alexander for breakout player of the year

The Bucs could have the next star linebacker in their midst.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Minicamp Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a day off today, so no training camp updates for you. Instead, we can talk about some pundit stuff. Here’s Peter Schrager suggesting Kwon Alexander is going to be a breakout player in the NFC South this year.

I don’t know why we keep talking about total tackle numbers, they just don’t mean all that much. The tackle assists, which count towards totals, are too inconsistently tracked to be meaningful, while even total tackle numbers are often more about position and target numbers than about quality play. After all, Barrett Ruud had a few years where he had similar tackle numbers, and no one would suggest he was a star—a capable player, perhaps, but not more than that.

That’s not to say that tackles aren’t important, just that they don’t set apart the excellent players from the just-good ones. Every linebacker in the league can tackle, after all. And it isn’t just about tackles, but where those tackles get made, too.

Instead, if we want to talk about Alexander’s quality, we should be talking about his in-game film, and his impact plays. That is: sacks, interceptions, tackles for loss, and how he looks on a play-to-play basis. And on all of those scores he does exceptionally well, too. A middle linebacker isn’t supposed to get six sacks, three interceptions and 16 passes defensed in two seasons, but Alexander has.

And let’s be honest: tackles aren’t what get players into those top-100 lists anyway. Splash plays, do. You don’t get noticed for dutifully making tackle after tackle, you get noticed for taking away the ball. That’s true for every defensive position, and rightly so: those are game-changing plays.

If Alexander is to take the next step, and I fully believe he will, those splash plays are where he’s going to make his money. And intriguingly, the Bucs may be giving him a leg up there. Mike Smith wants to show more 3-4 looks this year, more variation, and is looking to be a little more aggressive—all great opportunities for a middle linebacker to make his presence felt.