As a football fan, you’d be hard put to think of a more lackluster talent-evaluating staff than the Cleveland Browns over the last ten years. It’s hard to say much more than that when their most memorable success was a movie, Draft Day.
Draft history of quarterbacks aside, they have fielded consistently poor football teams time and again and their results on the field have been commensurate to that. As such, such a depleted roster is a beacon for undrafted players looking to snag a quick NFL buck by making the 53. They know going in that they’re unlikely to find much success in that environment, and with a historically poor coaching staff in place, development and growth as a player equally elusive.
Enter Dominique Alexander. Signed as an undrafted free agent, the rookie out of Oklahoma totaled a combined 212 tackles in his final two seasons operating the middle of the Sooners defense. His nose for the ball shows up on tape, too. He flies downhill and pursues the football aggressively. Sometimes, in his case, too aggressively, as he has been prone to overrunning plays while trying to make a play on the ballcarrier. When his patience shines through, however, he’s at his best. His shoulders and hips are excellent when moving sideline to sideline against the run.
What really shows about Alexander is his level of comfort with getting physical. He’s not afraid to mix things up and take a late shot on receivers downfield. He may be shorter than average despite a good weight (6002, 232 lbs), but that doesn’t show on the field. He’s able to impose his will with his body as is.
On his backpedal, he’s surprisingly stiff for a guy who looks so limber moving laterally. It looks cumbersome for him to open his hips and zone drop, which makes him a slow, small-bodied linebacker clogging up the seam, a recipe for disaster in a Tampa 2 or Cover 3 defense.
If you scan your eye across the Browns roster now, it’s obvious that one of the biggest holes is at inside linebacker. Projected starters are third-year player Christian Kirksey, who’s flashed some promise, and Jets castoff Demario Davis. Hardly a pairing you’d consider to be among the best in a stacked division at the position group, more so considering their backups are Tank Carder and Justin Tuggle. The door is open for Alexander to make a real impact on this team if he can crack the 53-man roster and earn serious playing time.