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Interview with the Enemy, Trade Edition: What Kwon Alexander brings to Saints locker room

Divisional Round - Minnesota Vikings v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

This week’s Interview with the Enemy series took a slight detour to start the week; the New Orleans Saints made a surprise trade with the San Francisco 49ers for Kwon Alexander late Monday afternoon. As such, we felt it imperative to get the breakdown on Alexander from our good ole’ West Coast frenemies. Despite plenty of season woes to wallow in, Kyle Posey of Niner Nation humored our trade questions on Alexander and the impact we can expect from him – particularly in the locker room.

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This trade came as a bit of a surprise outright for Saints fans; not sure I saw a trade coming, but certainly not for a linebacker. What can we expect to get this year out of Kwon Alexander?

Alexander is an above-average linebacker who makes plays. Many 49ers fans soured on him for his missed tackles, but they ignored the plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet. Alexander’s speed and aggressiveness will stand out to you right away. He’s tremendous in coverage and is your prototypical sideline-to-sideline linebacker.

Health and his contract are Kwon’s biggest issues. When he’s on the field, he’s fun, will energize the defense, and get you off the field. Alexander is an ideal linebacker in today’s NFL.

There’re certainly longevity concerns – is Alexander injury-prone? Or is he just a victim of the terrible injury bug that’s plagued your team entirely?

That’s tough. With Alexander’s style of play, which can be a bit reckless, he opens himself up and that’s been the reason for Alexander’s most recent injuries. There’s no way around a high-ankle sprain, though. That’s bad luck. History would suggest that it’s a coin flip on whether Alexander will stay healthy, though. I’m not sure it’s fair to call him injury-prone, with the luck we’ve mentioned, but there isn’t a strong argument that suggests Kwon would stay healthy for the foreseeable future.

Why do you think the 49ers made this trade? Is it purely cap-based, or are you entering “rebuild” mode with the level of insurmountable injuries?

100% for cap space. Everyone in the locker room loves Kwon. He changed the way the defense plays. He’s a ball of energy that unlocked certain players’ confidence, and he helped change their work ethic. The players on the 49ers have said this week that they wouldn’t be the player they are without Alexander.

I’m sure injuries played a part, but Alexander’s deal was a disaster for this team, and the Niners were under $200K in cap space. I doubt the front office is thinking about a rebuild. Dre Greenlaw’s emergence has helped, but this move will always circle back to the salary cap.

Would you say Alexander is stronger in coverage or pressuring the quarterback? Is he more paramount to zone coverage or the pass rush?

Alexander’s recklessness comes in handy as a blitzer, but coverage is his strong suit. He’s above-average in man coverage, but his awareness in a zone is superb. A lot of linebackers these days get lost in space and tend to “guard grass.” That’s not an issue with Kwon. Your coverage units will be much stronger when Alexander is on the field.

What would you say is a sleeper strength of Alexander’s that Saints fans might not know about?

It’s his intangibles and what he brings to the team off the field. From the coaches to the players, they all love Alexander. They used the word “love,” too. It’s easy to see the bond Alexander created with players like Fred Warner and Kendrick Bourne, but the reaction from the 49ers players on Twitter, once they found out a deal had been made, said it all.

If you have young players that need guidance on your roster, Kwon is the player they’ll flock to. He gets a bad wrap for missed tackles and his contract, and while the injury critiques are fair, you’re going to love what he brings to the table in New Orleans.

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Kyle, you had me at above-average in man coverage. In all seriousness, huge thanks to Kyle for taking the time to answer our questions. Saints fans, make sure you check out Kyle and the work his guys are doing over at Niners Nation. You can follow Niners Nation on Twitter @NinersNation, Kyle @KP_Show, and of course, you can follow me @MaddyHudak_94. Who Dat!