On Sunday afternoon linebacker Kwon Alexander will be in a familiar place as the 2019 season gets underway. The one big difference is he’ll be on the 49ers sideline playing against his old team, the Bucs.
Alexander, who patrolled the middle of the Buccaneers defense for the previous four seasons, suffered a torn ACL in October of last year and never played for Tampa Bay, again. He went on injured reserve and then, the Bucs and GM Jason Licht allowed him to test the free-agent waters. And, that’s where where he promptly signed in the other Bay Area.
49ers GM and former Buccaneer player John Lynch knew a good defensive impact player when he saw one, and regardless of the knee rehab they brought Alexander into anchor their D. San Francisco giving Alexander a lucrative four year $54 million contract with $27 million guaranteed lured him West.
Alexander (in happier times in Buc gear, above), is a former mid round pick in the 2015 draft by the Bucs and played his way into being a Pro Bowl player in 2017. That’s when he had a career high 97 tackles, 7 TFLs and three INTS.
However, he injured himself in the first quarter of the Bucs home game with the Cleveland Browns on October 21st last year. So, in a way, it’s ironic that his first game back in another jersey will be back at the very same Raymond James Stadium turf, where he was injured 11 months ago.
“It’ll be cool,” Alexander said at the 49ers practice facility on Wednesday. “Sentimental? Nah. Just ready to get the job done. There’s nothing else I can really keep saying about it. At the end it’s not going to be all about me so I’m trying to make it all about the team.”
Still, you have to believe that, when he gets his first chance to hit QB Jameis Winston or tight end Cam Brate, etc., his attitude will change.
At the least, Alexander is mostly glad to be back.
Bucs pass rusher Barrett named NFC Defensive Player of Week
Off their impressive Road win last Thursday night against division rival Carolina, the Buccaneers also got an individual accolades on Wednesday morning.
That’s when the NFL announced that edge pass-rusher Shaq Barrett had been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week:
And it's only the beginning.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 18, 2019
Barrett had a tremendous game, or should we say third quarter specificall, in the win over the Panthers. This as, he registered not one, but three quarterback sacks, in the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s 20 – 14 victory.
Barrett became the first Buccaneer since Simeon Rice in their Super Bowl season of 2002 to have that many sacks in a single 15 minute period. He’s also the first Bucs pass rusher to get three sacks in a single game since the 2015 season.
Barrett also had a sack in Tampa Bay’s week one loss against San Francisco and obviously, leads them now with four of them through the first two games. The four sacks in two games has matched the best start in sacking the QB in Buccaneers franchise history.
The last time the Bucs had a defensive player win player of the week honors, was also 2015. That’s when linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander each took home the honor in separate weeks.
The six year veteran came to Tampa Bay after having spent his first five years with the Denver Broncos. This included his being part of the Broncos Super Bowl 50 winning season of 2014.
Barrett had 14 career sacks coming into this season and is already thriving early in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense. The Bucs are pairing him on the outside with Carl Nassib in Bowles’ 3-4 scheme.
He is also the former Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year at Colorado State, where he had 12 sacks and three forced fumbles in his senior season and was eventually signed with Denver, as an undrafted free agent.
Bucs coach Arians rightfully fearing Giants RB Saquon Barkley
Regardless of the Giants starting rookie Daniel Jones at quarterback on Sunday, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians knows the real key for New York resides deeper in their backfield.
That’s where second-year running back Saquon Barkley is expected to be busy, especially early in the game. And, he may very well be the reason or not that New York has a chance to get their first win of the season Sunday in Tampa.
Arians made it clear right away at his Tuesday press conference that Barkley will be a challenge for a Buccaneer defense that has been stingy so far this year against the run:
"I’ve had the confidence all along… We have to practice the same this week, after a win, as we did after a loss. The sense of urgency can’t leave."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 17, 2019
“He’s got more 50-yard runs than anybody I’ve seen in a long time,” Arians said. “He’s hard to bring down. He doesn’t run over many people – he runs around them and runs past them. The size and the speed combination are extremely rare.”
The Bucs held the 49ers in check for just 77 yards on the ground in their opening loss two weekends ago, but then, played even better against Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers running attack last Thursday night. They held McCaffrey to only 37 yards on 16 carries, including the biggest moment of the game. That’s when DB Vernon Hargreaves stopped McCaffrey one-on-one from getting the one needed yard to keep Carolina’s final drive alive and hopes of winning the game.
As for Barkley, he comes off a tremendous debut season with a 1,300 yards rushing and another 700 receiving. He’s arguably the best dual threat back in football.
And, with a 120 yd rush game on just 11 carries in the opening week game at Dallas, Barkley followed up with another 100 yard game last week against Buffalo registering 107 yards on 18 carries. Still, the Giants dropped both games and at 0- 2 and have decided to shake it up at QB.
Giants second-year coach Pat Shurmur will try to establish the run early on in the game to take the pressure off his rookie quarterback making his debut.
The Bucs know that as well and looked at stuff to run with Pro Bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh and former first-round pick Vita Vea. Both guys have been big keys in clogging up the middle and helping the Buccaneers stop the 49er and Panther backs.
And if they do so Sunday at home, it will be a big key for a second straight win.
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