Lorenzo Alexander seamlessly mixing more coverage into his Bills LB role - The Buffalo News

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Lorenzo Alexander seamlessly mixing more coverage into his Bills LB role

Lorenzo Alexander is on his sixth NFL team and his ninth defensive coordinator, so he was not worried about adapting to the new Buffalo Bills' defensive scheme this season.

"That’s kind of been my M.O. my whole career," Alexander said. "I’ve been in this league 13 years. I’ve played seven or eight positions, been moved around, lost weight, gained weight. That’s just kind of been my skill set that I bring to the NFL that I’m diverse or versatile."

Not everyone was as unconcerned. Alexander lined up on the line of scrimmage most of the time in Rex Ryan's defense, either as a stand-up outside linebacker or a pass-rushing defensive end.

The new defense of head coach Sean McDermott and coordinator Leslie Frazier puts him more often in a 4-3 linebacker position off the line of scrimmage.

At age 34, could Alexander handle the increased pass-coverage responsibilities? Through four games, the answer is no problem.

Alexander is dropping into coverage on 30 percent of his defensive snaps, according to News figures. That's up from just 10 percent last year in Ryan's 3-4 defense, according to Pro Football Focus.

"Obviously I’m playing Will this year vs. a traditional 3-4 linebacker, who oftentimes is rushing a lot more, just by the coverages and the way the scheme is built," said Alexander, referring to the weak-side linebacker spot in the 4-3 defense.

"I'm enjoying it," Alexander said. "I knew it was going to be a change for me. I knew I wasn’t going to have as many opportunities to rush. But if we continue to progress like we’re going defensively, I don’t care if I have 50 more tackles than I did last year and maybe four or five less sacks. That doesn’t matter to me. It’s all about winning games and getting to the playoffs."

"So far so good," McDermott said Thursday as the Bills prepared to face the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday. "I wasn't concerned about that. Maybe some other people were. Those weren't people on the inner circle. He does a phenomenal job. He's a heady player. He does a lot of things well."

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Alexander has showed good speed to the sideline in coverage. He has held a handful of completions in the flat to short gains. He was in coverage on a 39-yard sideline pass to running back Tevin Coleman in Atlanta. Matt Ryan threw a pinpoint pass. It was a diving catch by Coleman, one of the top receiving backs in the NFL. If that's what it takes to beat that coverage, the Bills probably aren't going to often give that play up.

Alexander's edge rush opportunities are down a bit from last year, by about eight snaps a game so far. He ranked third in the NFL last season with 12.5 sacks.

However, the Bills still rely on Alexander in the critical edge-rush situations opposite Jerry Hughes. On the last defensive series in Atlanta with the Bills clinging to the lead, Alexander was in an edge-rush position on 11 of 12 plays.

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This season he has two sacks so far, and he has 10 hurries, by unofficial count. That's good impact. He hurried the quarterback on two interceptions in the Jets game. He put three hits on Ryan last week.

Alexander played a season-high 64 snaps (out of 75) in Atlanta due to the fact fellow linebacker Ramon Humber went out with a broken thumb. Alexander had played 41 and 43 snaps the previous two weeks.

Rookie Matt Milano, who replaces Humber, will have a full week of practice entering the Cincinnati game. Chances are Alexander will go back to playing about 60 percent of the snaps.

"We have to manage it," McDermott said. "We have some other players in that same boat a little bit, who we have a rep count on every week."

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