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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Although this is his second training camp with the Texans, in many real ways inside linebacker Mister Alexander feels like a rookie all over again.
A lot of that has to do with the fact on the first day of the training camp, the former Eisenhower product and undrafted free agent in 2011 broke his arm and was relegated to meeting and taking mental reps for the first three months of his rookie season. It also didn’t he help that because of last year’s NFL lockout Alexander didn’t have the benefit of OTAs or minicamps to help fill in some of the blanks.
Alexander is fully aware of what is at stake.
“It’s up to me to now step up to the plate,” he said to SportsRadio 610. “If you are third string they look at you but they may not expect as much from you. But when you are second string you have to know just as much as the first string guy.”
It’s unlikely Alexander knows nearly as much as James, a 10-year veteran who spent several years playing in Wade Phillips’ system with the Dallas Cowboys, but if his mental capacity can come anywhere close to his physical capabilities then the Texans could be on to something.
It’s obvious that was the sentiment on the coaching staff last year when the Texans kept him around after the untimely injury. Undrafted free agents who get injured on the first day of training camp usually find themselves out of work.
Even Alexander admits at times last season, “It left me confused because I didn’t know whether I was going to get cut or if I would have a chance to show what I could do. I was kind of down.”
But the Texans kept Alexander around on the practice squad and elevated the Florida State product to the active until last November 1st when Sharpton originally suffered the season-ending torn quad injury. Most of his opportunity came on special teams but when given a chance in the Texans 3-4 defense, Alexander was able to make things happen on pure athletic ability and instinct.
It was obvious Alexander has the size, strength and speed to develop into a special player after being something of a late bloomer at Florida State.
“He’s very athletic, he can really run and he’s got a good football temperament,” Phillips said.
What Alexander still lacks is the natural understanding of the game and his role in it. But he is getting caught up in a hurry due to the prolonged absence of Sharpton. Training camp was supposed to be about Sharpton and James competing for the inside linebacker spot opposite Brian Cushing.
But Alexander is getting the benefit of many of that would have been going to Sharpton this training camp.
“He is really focused on trying to do better and get better,” Phillips said. “He is a ways behind that way but he’s a kid that really tries hard and gives the kind of effort you want. So he’s been coming along well.”
Alexander, who is 6-foot-4 and 242 pounds, will get to show just how far along he has come when the Texans take on the Carolina Panthers during Saturday’s preseason opener. With the uncertainty of Sharpton, the Texans are going to be evaluating whether Alexander is ready to step into a backup role or if they need to comb the wires to bring in a veteran.
“I’m really looking forward to it, just to get out there,” said Alexander. “I know we are going to get a lot of reps so I prepared to be dead tired. I just have to keep on pushing out there.”
The more he pushes and the fewer mistakes Alexander makes moves him closer to his dream of being a consistent play maker in the NFL.
“It’s a major opportunity so I’m taking it pretty seriously,” he said. “I’m trying to make as few mistakes as possible.”