Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera's defensive philosophy is a good fit for former Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander.
The 2012 Associated Press Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Alexander had an up-and-down rookie season. Similar to his early days at OU, Alexander experienced invaluable lessons.
“In college you play 13 games. When we got halfway through, we already had played that many games (including four preseason games). And we still had eight games left,” Alexander said in a phone interview with The Oklahoman. “I hit the wall, but it's something that should help me this year.”
A key contributor on a deep, talented Carolina defensive line, Alexander is the Panthers' third defensive end behind starters Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson. The knock on Alexander during his rookie season was he was inconsistent.
The first four games Alexander recorded 2.5 sacks. The fourth-round pick didn't compile another sack the remainder of the season. He recorded 18 tackles but had a six-game, midseason stretch in which he recorded only two tackles in six games.
“It's like coming to college your freshman year,” Alexander said. “It takes some getting used to learning your way through everything. It's a lot easier the second year because you know what to expect.”
Alexander appeared in all 16 games. Overcoming the midseason lull, he finished strong, recording 12 of his 18 quarterback pressures the final seven games.
“I learned the things I need to work on, things like getting off blocks better on running plays and using my hands more,” Alexander said. “At this level things happen so fast you really have to process things faster. But if you work on little things it can lead to big things.”
Alexander has the passion. In fact, his passion sometimes lands him in trouble.
In Carolina's season opener two weeks ago against Seattle, Alexander was ejected in the second quarter after he threw punches at Seahawks offensive tackle Breno Giacomini.
Alexander confessed he got caught up in the “heat of the moment.” He regretted retaliating to trench-war tactics. He was fined $15,750 but was allowed to play in Carolina's second game.
But that type of fiery demeanor could benefit Alexander in Rivera's system. A member of the famed 1985 Chicago Bears defense, Rivera developed an attacking style as the Bears defensive coordinator.
“I played on a 3-4 team (in Buffalo) where it wasn't always like that,” defensive tackle Dwan Edwards told the Charlotte Observer. “Here, we're trying to penetrate and make plays.”
Alexander made a ton of plays at OU his senior year but was viewed as an underachiever his first three seasons.
He suffered a stab wound in his right arm in 2008 while protecting friends when armed intruders crashed a postgame OU victory party. The injury sidelined the Baton Rouge product for five games.