Bucs LBs Alexander, Smith excited about 'aggressive' defense
Details about the nature of the Bucs defense under new coordinator Mike Smith are still largely under wraps, but linebackers Kwon Alexander and Daryl Smith said they're excited about the scheme they're learning this spring.
"Very different," Alexander said of the differences betweeen the new Bucs defense and what he learned last year as a rookie under Lovie Smith. "A lot of schemes, but I love it though. I feel like everybody's going to be out there flying around. I can't wait to get back on the field. ... It's going to be aggressive. You guys should see it for yourself. It's going to be fun. Y'all are going to enjoy it."
Much of last season was Alexander learning on the fly, making the quick transition from 21-year-old rookie to starting linebacker with almost no plays off. His focus is on improving the defense as a whole, even as new pieces should be added in the draft in two weeks.
"I'm trying to make this defense the No. 1 defense in the league," Alexander said. "I have big expectations. How I work, everybody's going to work like me. I like to bring excitement, have fun and that's how it's going to be around here."
Alexander, who missed the final four games of his rookie season due to a suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, said he's been busy in the offseason, trying to make sure he's as ready as possible for his second NFL season.
"I've been working on everything. I don't think my game is where it needs to be right now," Alexander said. "I can be way better in every aspect. I've been working on coverage, hands, drops, everything, catching. Everything."
Daryl Smith, 34, topped 120 tackles in each of his last three seasons with the Ravens. He played four seasons in Jacksonville with Mike Smith before he left to become the Falcons head coach in 2008, but he sees a lot of that old Jaguars defense in what he's learning now.
"I'm familiar with the defense, and excited to get back," Daryl Smith said. "I see some things that I'm definitely familiar with, but I already see some new things that he's added. It'll have a lot more stuff as we go along."
The Bucs' free-agent signings this spring include the three oldest players on defense in Smith, corner Brent Grimes and defensive end Robert Ayers, but Smith said what stands out to him about this year's Bucs is the overall youth and upside.
"We've got a young roster that can play," he said. "We've got talent that nobody really might not know it just yet, but hopefully we'll prove that."
Smith is excited about the two young linebackers he'll play alongside in Alexander and Lavonte David.
"They're both young," he said. "Lavonte's been around a few years, All-Pro, knows what he's doing. Kwon is young, but knowledgeable about the game and so eager to learn. Already they're asking so many questions. It's a defense they'll thrive in."
Alexander said he sits next to Smith in the linebacker meeting room on purpose, the better to lean in and pick up a little wisdom each day from an NFL veteran who knows this defense going back to when he was new to the league.
"I ask all the questions I can, and he answers them all," Alexander said. "He's a great guy, has been in the league a long time, so I'm picking his brain, too. I pick everybody's brain. I'm just trying to be the best I can be."