Maurice Alexander is one of the many defensive starters that are going to be a free agent next year. He earned his starting job both through tireless work on special teams and due to necessity after the departure of Rodney McLeod last season and he’s proven himself worthy of an extension.
Pro Football Focus named Alexander to its list of most improved defenders and the most improved safety. This is a welcome bit of news considering how bad the Rams secondary was last season and it tracks with Alexander’s trajectory since entering the league in 2014. He is also now the most tenured safety on the roster following T.J. McDonald’s exist during the off-season.
Alexander played primarily free safety last season but now that McDonald will no longer be there he is now being asked to be the starting strong safety which dovetails with having to learn Wade Phillip’s defensive scheme. Should all go well he will continue to get even better now that he’ll be entering training camp as a full fledged starter.
According to Pro Football Focus, Alexander when the Rams initially played him at free safety he struggled due to a lack of positional consistency meaning he played snaps all over the place of defense. In 2016, with his role more solidified he was able to find his footing and his grade went from a 44.6 to an 83.4 in a year’s time.
They gave him positive marks for his improvement in coverage and considering he was targeted 32.4 % of snaps which was fourth best among safeties. LaMarcus Joyner is expected to take the free safety position due to the lack of depth at that position and unless the Rams come away with a safety during the draft that spot will remain awfully thin. This plays to Alexander’s advantage because unlike Trumaine Johnson, the Rams know that if Alexander continues to improve they have no choice but to lock him up too.
Aside from losing him outright, the Rams could decide to franchise tag him, lock up Donald and Ogletree long term and then take care of Alexander next year. That might be a tough financial pill to swallow but at this point the Rams can’t afford not to.
If they can find a way to get out of Tavon Austin’s deal via trade then life gets a little easier but until then, they’ll just have to wait and see if Maurice Alexander’s ascension continues. For now, he and the Rams can take pride in the fact that while the secondary on the whole was dreadful in 2016. they at least have a bright spot to potentially build around for the future.