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PFF Names Los Angeles Rams S Maurice Alexander Among Most Improved Defensive Players In 2016

Big Mo was one of the most improved defenders in the NFL in 2016. Can he step up again in 2017?

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Los Angeles Rams S Maurice Alexander
Los Angeles Rams S Maurice Alexander
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2016 wasn't a great year for the Los Angeles Rams for many reasons. After starting 3-1, the team went on to lose 11 of its next 12 games to finish the year 4-12. One of the few bright spots was the play of S Maurice Alexander.

With the loss of S Rodney McLeod in the offseason to the Philadelphia Eagles during free agency (flashback to Les Snead saying re-signing the secondary was priority A...), the Rams were in desperate need of someone to step up. That someone was who some may have considered an unlikely candidate, Maurice Alexander.

Alexander improved so well last season that Pro Football Focus put him on their list of most improved defensive players in 2016. According to PFF, Alexander earned 44.6 grade at safety in 2015, but improved that to an 83.4 grade last year.

John Gatta of PFF said,

Alexander played nothing but special teams as a rookie in 2014. The next season, he got his shot on defense in Week 7 and ended up playing in every game to finish out the year. The Rams moved him all over the place; he spent 43 percent of his snaps as a free safety, and he struggled. Jump to 2016 and Alexander found his rhythm as the team’s starting FS, playing over 75 percent of his snaps there. He displayed great coverage skills, as he was targeted once of every 32.4 coverage snaps (the fourth-best rate of 92 qualified safeties).

After playing mostly special teams and getting limited looks in his second year, Alexander stepped up in a big way after McLeod left for Philadelphia. With the losses of both McLeod and Jenkins, there weren't a lot of good things about the Rams’ secondary, but Alexander was one of them. The former fourth round pick had career highs in tackles (50) and interceptions (2).

Now without S T.J. McDonald, this year Alexander could be asked to move over to the strong safety spot while cornerback Lamarcus Joyner gets a look at free safety. All of that will depend on what new defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, sees fit.