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How important is Kwon Alexander's return to Buccaneers?

Kwon Alexander was a full participant in practice on Thursday for the Buccaneers, meaning Tampa Bay should be getting one of its starting second-level defenders back for its trip to Western New York this weekend.

How big of a deal is Alexander's return?

First, let's start with his athleticism.

Here's how he fared at the combine, via MockDraftable:

Clearly, Alexander possesses the size, speed, and athletic ability to thrive in today's NFL. His 4.55 in the 40-yard dash is in the 91st percentile of all off-ball linebackers — think non pass-rushers — who've participated in the combine since 1999.

As a rookie in 2015, the former LSU standout finished as Pro Football Focus' fourth-lowest graded linebacker out of 94 qualifiers at his position. Despite that, strangely, Alexander actually had a positive grade as a pass-rusher. His +2.8 grade in that area ranked seventh among linebackers that season.

Overall, Alexander missed a whopping 27 tackles as a rookie, the most at his position.

Last year, he finished with a grade in the negatives but jumped from 91st to No. 46 out of 88 qualifiers. His +3.4 grade in coverage ranked 22nd.

Alexander wasn't much better in terms of tackling reliability. On 1,023 snaps, he missed 23 tackles.

His sample size in 2017 is minute, as he's only played 17 snaps. During those plays, Alexander managed a +1.9 overall, which includes a +1. 3 grade in coverage. However, he missed two tackles on those 17 snaps.

Looking at the traditional statics, Alexander seems to be a quality linebacker. He had 93 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, and nine pass deflections as a rookie. The following year, his tackle number ballooned to 145 tackles, three sacks, seven pass breakups, and an interception.

But PFF grades tell a story of relative inconsistency, especially as a tackler. Clearly, Alexander has the athleticism and football IQ to get to the ball-carrier, it's just that he's struggled bringing that ball-carrier to the turf.

It'll be interesting to monitor how often he tracks the football and how often he makes tackles against LeSean McCoy, Tyrod Taylor and Co.

Grades courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

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