Since joining the Redskins in October of 2007, Lorenzo Alexander has played a multitude of positions, on both sides of the ball. He started out as a defensive tackle and played situational defensive end. Shortly thereafter, Alexander was moved to the offensive side of the ball where he played on the offensive line, fullback and he even lined up at tight end. Head Coach Joe Gibbs and the coaching staff then decided that it was best for the team for Alexander to play on the defensive line. The back-and-forth movement of Alexander did not go unnoticed by his teammates. One day in the team’s cafeteria, outspoken cornerbacks Fred Smoot and Shawn Springs dubbed Alexander as the “One Man Gang.” This became Alexander’s favorite nickname, so much so, that he has trademarked the name. Needless to say, the nickname has stuck.
Alexander made his professional debut in week 5 of the 2007 season at home against the Detroit Lions. Although he only played a couple of snaps on defense, it didn’t take long for Alexander to find a home on the special teams units.
“I started out in the wedge and played only a couple of snaps on defense. I remember being back in that wedge, back when we could have a 4-man wedge; I was just hitting anybody that was moving. Guys that weren’t even my responsibility, I just hit them because I was so excited to be out there.”
By the time the 2009 season had ended, Alexander had settled into his role on the team, a reserve defensive lineman and a stand-out special teams player. Known for his punishing hits covering kickoffs and punts, Alexander credits teammates and coaching for his ability to succeed.
“Working hard every day, having great coaches like Danny Smith and Richie Hightower really helped me develop into the special teams’ player I am today. Having guys like Rock Cartwright, James Thrash and Mike Sellers help teach me what it took to play special teams…Playing special teams takes a unique individual. You have to have a strong attitude, a killer instinct, and a want-to to want to run down the field at full speed and collide with another grown man. Attitude and mindset is what helps me excel.”
In 2010, the Redskins hired new Head Coach, Mike Shanahan, who brought along with him Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslet and his aggressive, attacking 3-4 defensive scheme. Along with a new coaching staff and defensive scheme, came a new opportunity for Alexander. This time the position switch would be from the defensive line to outside linebacker in Haslet’s new 3-4 defense. 2010 was a mixed bag of results for Alexander. He began the season as Andre Carter’s back-up but became the starter after only 4 games. Alexander went on to start in the teams’ remaining 12 games, registering 57 tackles and 1.5 sacks. 2011 came and the Redskins had drafted defensive end Ryan Kerrigan with the team’s 1st round draft pick. Alexander knew he would again revert to being the back-up. A team player first and foremost, Alexander never complained but was there in case the team needed him. He continued to excel on special teams and even pushed to be voted to the Pro Bowl. Although he fell just short, his play on the field did not go unnoticed by his Head Coach, Mike Shanahan.
“I think if the coaches voted–just coaches, because they study the tapes–he’d be No. 1. That’s how dominating a player he is. I haven’t seen a guy get consistently double-teamed, triple-teamed and go down there and make tackles. That just doesn’t happen at this level. People aren’t that physical, and he makes those plays every year, or at least the last two years that I’ve been around him. It’s truly a credit to his preparation and how hard he works and the type of football player he is… You don’t find many guys like Lorenzo. From top to bottom, he’s the best special-teams player that I’ve been around of the guys that make plays consistently, both kickoff, kickoff return, special teams in general.” Alexander said that he was honored and humbled to hear his 2-time Super Bowl winning Head Coach speak those words of him.
Changing positions has been something that Lorenzo Alexander has grown accustomed to. This off-season was no different as the Redskins’ coaching staff asked Alexander to get leaner to be able to make another position change, this time to inside linebacker in the team’s 3-4 defense. Alexander, who at one point of his career weight upwards of 315 lbs in order to play on the defensive and offensive lines, came into this year’s training camp looking visibly leaner. His weight is down to 245 lbs, lightest he has weighed since high school. While his weight loss is noticeable to any passerby, Alexander’s strength and physical play has actually increased and was on full display in training camp and during the preseason games. When I asked Alexander about what he attributed his weight loss too, nutrition and eating better was number. I asked him if his weight loss affected his strength:
“I wish I had some secret that I could share, but it really comes down to training smarter and being more productive when you train. The biggest thing to keep my strength was palates. My core is the strongest it has ever been in my career, and it has helped me remain explosive. My functional strength is better; I’m just as strong if not stronger.”
The biggest challenge for Alexander switching to the inside will be having to “see the whole field and running with guys downfield. As an outside linebacker, your role is to set the edge and rush the passer; it’s much more of a physical position. But in the inside, especially at the MIKE, its mentally more demanding, have to make calls, have to be on the same page with the db’s and the d-linemen.” Alexander is part of one of the deepest linebacker corps in the league. Although he is a reserve to the iron man of football, London Fletcher, Alexander knows that he will be relied on heavily as a 3rd year special teams captain. His only personal goals for the season are to have 30 tackles and to make the Pro Bowl as a special teams’ player. His logic? “If I’m going to the pro bowl, I know we are winning games.” In this, Coach Shanahan’s 3rd season, Alexander is hoping that continuity and cohesion with the team will help make 2012 a success.
“For the first time in a long time, we don’t have to learn a new system. So some of the returning guys can actually help and teach the new guys…honestly we can be as good as we want to be. I know its cliché, but it truly is ‘any given Sunday.’ We have the talent to win; we just need to eliminate some of our turnovers, force more turnovers on defense, and find a way to finish in the 4th quarter where most games are won and lost. We are not that far off from being a playoff-competing team.”