Just before the trade deadline passed, the Saints traded linebacker Kiko Alonso and a conditional fifth-round pick to the 49ers for linebacker Kwon Alexander. After a one-week roster exception, Alexander is now officially on the 53-man roster and available to play against his former team this coming Sunday.
The timing of Alexander’s arrival is fortuitous for a couple reasons.
Alexander had been dealing with a high ankle sprain he suffered in the 49ers’ week 5 loss to the Dolphins. High ankle sprains can be gnarly injuries that linger and even lead to other issues. But, it appears that after five weeks of rest, Alexander is not even mentioned on the weekly Saints injury report.
After tearing his ACL in 2018 and tearing his pectoral muscle in 2019, Alexander might finally be the most healthy a player can be 10 weeks into a football season. It also helps that Alexander is a quick study and seems to have picked up the Saints’ defensive scheme without any major problem.
Demario Davis said Kwon Alexander came in and picked the defense up very quickly. Said he hasn't really had to do a whole lot to help him get up to speed since Alexander is figuring things out quickly.— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) November 12, 2020
Though the majority of the 49ers’ best players are currently on injured reserve (Ziggy Ansah, Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, Raheem Mostert, Jimmy Garoppolo, and George Kittle) and they are sitting at the bottom of the NFC West with a 4-5 record, it should be noted that all of their wins except one have come on the road.
In order to be successful in the NFL, you have to believe in the saying “any given Sunday” and give every opponent you face 100% of your attention week in and week out.
The Saints have a history of laying eggs following emotional wins; and after their total domination over the Bucs, they especially need to heed Sean Payton’s old adage “Don’t eat the cheese.” As Brees has clarified, “In other words, don’t believe the stuff other people are feeding you about how great you are and all this other stuff. Don’t eat it man. It’s a trap. You’ve got to keep working.”
Alexander can help the Saints this week in another unique way...as a double agent. The Saints have often signed players from divisional and conference rivals, but they rarely do so mid-season. Teddy Bridgewater can only tell the Panthers what the Saints were doing last year, but Alexander can tell the Saints what the 49ers were doing up until two weeks ago.
His intel might not be earth-moving, but it could certainly help the Saints as they prepare to face a conference foe who has almost always provided close and contested matchups.
Outside of the Saints’ 41-23 shellacking of the 49ers back in 2016, the other four contests between these two dating back to 2012 have been won or lost by an average of 4.5 points. Two of those four games have been decided by three points, while last year’s nail-biter was won by only two points.
This week’s game certainly doesn’t have the obvious playoff implications that last year’s game had, but the Saints can’t sleep on any team, especially one they’ve developed a bit of a rivalry with. It could be a small handful of plays that make the difference, and Alexander’s healthy arrival could easily be a part of what tips the scale in the Saints’ favor.
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