Better known as just "Mo", Maurice Alexander was another surprise pick of the St. Louis Rams' 2014 NFL Draft class from the fourth round. A former linebacker at Utah State, he transitioned to the safety position during his last season there before ultimately being suspended from the team. You may have heard the story about how the St. Louis-born product used to work at the Edward Jones Dome during his suspension.
Alexander is the prime example of a "project" draft pick. Brimming with athleticism but lacking experience and knowledge at his new safety position, he’s been one of Gregg Williams’ personal favorites. He’s a nasty big hitter that is still learning the ins and outs of the position and may finally be ready to break through and repay his defensive coordinator for banging the table for him.
After playing exclusively on special teams in his rookie season, Alexander saw a dramatic increase in playing time with the defense in 2015. With T.J. McDonald battling injuries, Alexander stepped in to start five games in his absence and logged 419 (36.2%) defensive snaps on the season. For the season, Alexander posted 39 combined tackles, one fumble recovery, one pass defended, and two sacks against two of the Rams tougher opponents (the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals).
Alexander in some ways is as much of a hybrid as Mark Barron is. Make no mistake though -- Alexander has yet to show the effectiveness in the NFL that Barron has to this point. Alexander struggled with pass coverage as a starter and at times looked very much the converted linebacker. He must improve in this area if he is to win a starting safety position.
His versatility and aggressiveness should ensure he sees plenty of the field in Williams’ defense for 2016 whether its as a starter or sub-package player.
Alexander will be battling two veterans in Cody Davis and Christian Bryant for the starting slot alongside McDonald. It’s likely that all three of these players make the final 53. Former Browns safety Donte Whitner was rumored to be of interest to the Rams but that has not materialized into a contract. UDFA Brian Randolph could be a dark horse candidate to get the nod. And Lamarcus Joyner could always creep into the picture moving from the slot CB position.
The safety position may be the most interesting development to keep an eye on during training camp. With the possibility of a McDonald suspension to start the season due to his DUI charge in May, Alexander will likely be first in line to fill in at SS if last year was any indication. With the Rams allowing their safeties to be interchangeable, there’s a wide open battle for the FS spot among three, four, maybe even five players.
With back ends of rosters, having coaches on your side always plays well. Having the defensive coordinator be one of your biggest believers and supporters gets you playing time. Alexander plays with the aggressiveness Williams covets while also offering an appealing blend of size and speed to keep the Rams defense multiple. Early signs would point to him getting the first crack opposite McDonald.
Should Alexander become a starter, it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect him to play to the level of the departed Rodney McLeod. Alexander could be used in many ways that Barron has been used before in blitz packages. Alexander is still learning the safety position and a training camp with first team reps only stands to benefit him as he enters year three.
Chances of Making Final Roster (10/10)
Gregg Williams pounded the table for this guy. After a couple years of further development at the safety position, Mo may finally be able to provide some "boom" on their "boom or bust" investment. Alexander will make the final roster as a primary backup safety, at the worst.