The Philadelphia Eagles made a successful waiver wire claim earlier this week when they were awarded linebacker D.J. Alexander. In order to better get know the Eagles’ new special teams ace, I reached out to SB Nation writers from his former two teams: the Chiefs and the Seahawks. Thanks to Arrowhead Pride and Field Gulls for the insight they provided.
(Answers by Pete Sweeney)
1 - Can you sum up Alexander’s Chiefs career?
John Dorsey and the Kansas City Chiefs selected DJ Alexander with a compensatory pick in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, with the idea that Alexander could play special teams and perhaps develop into a good inside linebacker (The Chiefs have done this with a number of rookies--Daniel Sorensen, Albert Wilson and Ben Niemann all come to mind). Part one of the idea hit, and Alexander actually made a Pro Bowl as a special-teamer, replacing Matt Slater when the Patriots made the Super Bowl in the 2016-17 playoffs. Alexander finished his Chiefs career with 701 snaps on special teams but only 57 defensive snaps.
2 - Why did the Chiefs trade Alexander last year?
The Chiefs traded Alexander in what I figured to be a chance-of-scenery move. It hadn’t worked out in Seattle for LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, the return for Alexander. John Dorsey must have liked Pierre-Louis’ ceiling a bit better. On a side note, Pierre-Louis is no longer a Chief.
3 - What are Alexander’s strengths and weaknesses?
Alexander’s strengths as a Chief were speed and explosiveness to go along with his willingness to play on all of the Chiefs’ special teams units. For whatever reason, Alexander could never carve out a role as an inside linebacker despite the age and decline of Derrick Johnson and the revolving door next to him. A quick glance at his Seattle 2017 snap counts tell me more of the same story. For what its worth, Doug Pederson and Eagles defensive quality/assistant secondary coach Dino Vasso were on the Chiefs staff that selected Alexander.
4 - Anything to know about Alexander off the field?
Despite his struggles making a name on defense, Alexander showed good character during his time in Kansas City. Speaking with him as a reporter, Alexander was always respectful.
5 - What can you tell me about Alexander’s Seahawks career?
The Seahawks traded for him for his value on special teams. He was coming off a Pro Bowl season on ST; when they acquired him, Pete Carroll called him ‘a ridiculous special teams player.’ Brock Coyle had left in FA, and he was a big part of that unit. Since Bobby Wagner was drafted in 2012, the backup MLB has been a key teamer, first with Heath Farewell, and Brock Coyle after him. They signed Terence Garvin, another good special teamer, in FA, but he was an OLB. Alexander figured to be the next in that line of reserve MLB/ST. We really only saw him on special teams, I think he played less than 20 snaps on defense all year. Not that ‘backers generally stand out on coverage units, since they’re kind of restricted to the middle of the field and don’t make the flashy plays, but we didn’t see enough to give specific strengths or weaknesses. At the risk of repeating the same thing over and over, his strength really is special teams. He’ll play on every unit and be reliable, he isn’t going to abandon his lane or cheat inside/out.
6 - As an expert on Alexanders, what should I know about this one?
DJ Alexander’s Seahawks career wasn’t memorable in any way. Seattle traded for him (sending Kevin Pierre-Louis to the Chiefs) for linebacker depth and to help with Special Teams. At the time of the trade he was a year removed from being a Special Teams Pro Bowler. Really his strengths are supposed to be tackling abilities in kick and punt coverage, and he also had a punt block last year against the Giants. Can’t really comment on his weaknesses seeing as he only had 20 defensive snaps last year, so his actual abilities at linebacker are a complete unknown to me. The Eagles are known for great ST, so Alexander should be a good fit there if he’s brought over specifically for that.