What Is The Invisible Men Series?
Welcome along to the LA Rams Edition of the ‘Invisible Men Series’. Within this feature we’ll take an in-depth look at some of the unsung heroes within every teams roster.
We’re all familiar with the men under center, star wideouts along with the outspoken cornerbacks who proclaim to be the best in the business, every single off-season. But what about that chain mover on third down? The specialist that can flip the field position with a swing of the leg? How about the run stuffing two down lineman, or the situational pass rusher?
The list is endless and whilst the diehard fans among us appreciate the limited, yet vital role these players play. Its time to enlighten those people encapsulated with showering praise on the franchise quarterback. Wake up! As without player ‘A’ that quarterback would either be on his back or throwing another errant pass!
Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the “Invisible Men Series’
Los Angeles Rams: Maurice ‘Mo’ Alexander (safety)
Born in Eureka, Missouri Maurice Alexander‘s journey to the NFL is one full of regret, hope, fortune and redemption. A two-time all-state state, all-conference honoree at Eureka High School. Alexander was part of the wildcats team that won two district championships. Outside of the gridiron, ‘Mo’ was an all-state wrestler and track star.
Mo’s success continued at the college level, winning back to back league championships as part of the Arizona Weston College team. During his two-year span with the Matadors, Alexander made 179 tackles, 15 sacks and 4 interceptions before transferring to Utah State University to play linebacker.
During Mo’s first year with the ‘Aggies’ (2011) he featured in 12 games, making 8 starts, and recorded 45 tackles along with 3 sacks. However during 2012, Alexander’s actions not only cost him a year of college football, but also placed his NFL dreams in jeopardy. During a party Alexander got into a fight with teammate Joseph DeMartino, leaving him unconscious and in need of surgery to repair a fractured cheekbone and bones in the eye socket.
Facing the possibility of a year in jail, Alexander entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of aggravated assault, with 45 days in prison. Alexander was also kicked off the team.
With a year to reflect on his actions, Alexander became a model civilian. He met all the requirements set out by both the University and the authorities in a bid to be reinstated by the team. Alexander became a janitor at the Edward James Dome, a facility he’d become even more familiar with, as his journey unfolded.
A return to the team in 2013, came with a change of position as Alexander moved to safety. Mo thrived in his new role and went on to record 80 tackles (9 for a loss), 3.5 sacks, 6 pass breakups and 2 forced fumbles. Alexander’s play was enough for him to earn an honorable mention for the All-Mountain West Conference honors.
Entering The NFL
Scouting report via NFL.com ahead of the 2014 draft. (drafted by the St Louis Rams during the fourth round, 110th overall).
Explosive, punishing tackler. Very good size and movement skills. Has a 38-inch vertical jump and explosion in his legs. Covers ground fast and is surprisingly loose-hipped for a converted linebacker. Drops into the box and fits in the run game. Physical tackler. Effective blitzer. Aggressive and energetic. Has special-teams experience.
Miscast in deep coverage. Has man-coverage limitations. Lacks ideal foot speed to adjust to quick slot receivers. Average hands. Inconsistent ball reactions — in position to make plays, but doesn’t. Can be over aggressive and take poor angles. Was kicked off the team and dealt with criminal assault charges for an altercation with a teammate. Very raw understanding of coverage’s and football concepts.
Alexander like the majority of fourth round selections had to earn his stripes on special teams. During his rookie season he was the gunner on the punt coverage unit, featuring in 9 games. During his sophomore season Alexander’s role within the team expanded. Playing safety Alexander featured in 14 games (9 as a starter) and became know as a thunderous hitter, whilst showcasing a natural blitzing ability.
Jake Ellenbogen cover the Rams for downtownrams.com .Having endured the 2016 Rams season Jake gave his assessment on Mo Alexanders. For more on the Rams, you can find Jake on twitter @JKBogen and also @Downtownrams.
Alexander ended up being picked by the same team he worked for as a janitor. In what was one of the craziest stories of the 2014 NFL draft, it didn’t amount too much early on. Alexander started off as a Special teams contributor with the St. Louis Rams. The Rams knew he was going to be somewhat of a “project” so they made him work hard for the starting job he eventually claimed at the start of the 2016 NFL season. Former Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likened Alexander coming out as the next Sean Taylor, he felt he could be that good.
Unfortunately for Alexander the bump in the road was the Undrafted free agent gem the Rams found out of Virginia in Rodney McLeod. He ended up taking off as a starter alongside former third-round pick T.J. McDonald. McLeod’s emergence kept Alexander in the backseat waiting for his number to be called. Luckily for Alexander the nature of the beast claimed McLeod, as he went on to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Rams likely let him walk away in free agency because they knew what they had in Alexander and boy Alexander didn’t disappoint the organization that took a chance on him.
Alexander’s 2016 season was actually Pro Bowl worthy to be completely honest. He started off the season as the fourth overall Free safety per Pro Football Focus. As the season went on things got rough for the Rams defense, but Alexander’s play didn’t waver a bit. He actually is more of a Strong safety, so he was what you would call out of position at Free safety. However, Alexander didn’t look out of position at all. He was used in multiple areas in Gregg Williams’ aggressive defense in which he mostly ran a nickel base. Alexander was solid as a blitzer and solid in run support, but for a guy who often gets overlooked in coverage he actually excelled in coverage. There were times he flashed the ability to possibly play cornerback in my opinion believe it or not. He has a unique blend of size (6-foot-2), speed (4.54 40-time), leaping ability (38 inch vertical jump) and he can pack a punch as one of the premier hard-hitting safeties in the league.
For whatever reason he is basically invisible. Alexander finished the season as the 17th overall safety in the league per Pro Football Focus and finished seventh in the league in coverage as well. Alexander didn’t put up the gaudy numbers one looks for when picking who makes the Pro Bowl or deciding someone’s Madden rating, but Alexander did everything you could ask for as a debut Free safety playing out of his natural position. There were many times where Alexander either had to make a big play on a third down or in crunch time and he was able to come through with a pass breakup. He is only 26 years-old and showed some real bright areas of his game last season. The Rams may have missed on many of their picks, but I don’t think there is any way they missed on this fourth-round pick.
Alexander has gone from a complete mess in college, a janitor in the Edward Jones Dome, a special teams guy to now he is up in the category of an Aaron Donald and Alec Ogletree type of player that the Rams are going to need to re-sign when the time comes. Alexander has made the most of his opportunities and that right there is why he is the Invisible Man for the Los Angeles Rams. Every hear ESPN or the NFL Network breathe this guy’s name? Nope, but you will soon enough. Now that the Rams are on the hopeful upswing with Sean McVay leading the charge as their new Head coach, the recognition will be there for Alexander. Until then he will continue to stay humble, productive and hard-working while he is considered “Invisible”.
Featured Image By Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America via Zimbo.com