As the old adage goes, when one door closes, another opens. As this year's doors have closed for players like Reggie Ragland and IK Enemkpali, Lorenzo Alexander is pushing his door wide open. Starting at outside linebacker, Alexander looked like a dynamic pass rusher against the team where he established himself as an ace specialist. The Bills signed the 10-year vet to be a leader on special teams, but with the injuries at outside backer, Alexander is making his case to be a contributor on defense.
"We are going to play the best 11. If it's him, which it probably is, then he is going to be out there," said head coach Rex Ryan. "But we are going to play a number of guys. I don't want to overextend him. We know what's coming down the road, we get it. But this guy is doing a tremendous job for us. I don't want to gas him too much, but at the end of the day, we are going to play our best."
Alexander, who was tasked with getting around starting tackle Morgan Moses, was a difference maker early in the game. On a first quarter third-and-five, Alexander pulled off a spin move en route to a sack of Redskins QB Kirk Cousins. The 33-year-old demonstrated impressive and somewhat surprising agility.
"I like to hold it on guys you know, I don't want to show it too much," said Alexander about his spin move. "Obviously I've lost a lot of weight over the years and really focused on my quickness and effective in my speed. So a lot of guys haven't seen that from me so I surprise a couple of guys from time to time with that."
The play was called back for roughing the passer when the officials determined that Alexander hit Cousins below the knees. Upon replay, the hit appeared to be at the waist. The game featured an abundance of penalties from both sides.
"It's part of the game. Guys you know they're human, they're going to make calls," Alexander said. "They'll go back and look at the film and determine whether that was a good call or not. So I'm never going to be mad at them, it happened so quick. Obviously I don't want them to call that. I want to get my shine on and dance and do all that, but you got to go on to the next snap and continue to make some plays."
Alexander provided pressure on Cousins on multiple other occasions. He was so disruptive he even drew an illegal hands to the face penalty. His strong performance will make it difficult to exclude him when the coaching staff goes to draw up their defensive packages for Week One. While acknowledging that he was brought in primarily for special teams, Alexander also revealed how a situational role for him on defense is likely also in the cards.
"That's what he (Rex Ryan) said when I first came here. Obviously I want to be a starter on special teams," said Alexander. "Me out there along with Colt (Anderson) and then I have packages (on defense). Maybe I play 15 or 20 plays rotating opposite of Jerry (Hughes) throughout the game.
With Alexander's demonstration that he can cause problems for a starting offensive line, he very well may have played himself into more of the Bills' defensive plans. Alexander could be the guy who bridges the gap until the injured pass rushers can return to duty.
"Obviously throughout a season your role can change based on injuries, guys suspended, or whatever the situation may be," Alexander said. "So I always have to be ready to play anywhere whether it's outside, inside, and that's kind have been my initiative throughout my whole career in the NFL."