Chiefs rookie fifth-round pick D.J. Alexander has embraced his role on special teams this season, and on Wednesday, he was rewarded for it.
Alexander, a 6-foot-2, 233-pound inside linebacker, was named AFC special teams player of the week after blocking a punt that led to a safety in the Chiefs’ 23-17 win over the Raiders on Sunday.
Alexander — who became the second Chief to win the award this year, along with punter Dustin Colquitt — found out in a team meeting that he’d earned the honor.
“Coach (Andy) Reid just said my name, and it kind of threw me off guard because he never really says my name,” Alexander said. “I was shocked.”
Never miss a local story.
The Chiefs added to a four-point halftime lead early in the third quarter when Alexander sped through and blocked a punt by Marquette King that went out of the end zone for a safety, giving the Chiefs a 16-10 lead.
“It was kind of confusing, because the guy that was supposed to block me just took off,” Alexander said. “So for a slight second, I paused. But I was rushing anyway so I said, ‘Oh well,’ and I just kept going, and I was like, ‘(Dang), I hope that’s not a fake, and then I saw the punter go down in his usual punt (motion) and I was like, ‘All right, I’ll take it.’ ”
Alexander recorded the block after previously leaving the game to be checked for a concussion. He returned in time to make a play that gave the Chiefs an added cushion they would eventually need.
“That one play really put me on the map, but before that, I didn’t really have that great of a game,” said Alexander, who was happy to make a big play. “There’s always room for improvement.”
Special teams coach Dave Toub says Alexander — who last played special teams extensively as a true freshman at Oregon State in 2010, when he tied for the team lead with eight special teams tackles — has already come a long way, however.
“His speed is really good, and he’s really gotten better and better,” Toub said. “His last seven weeks now, he’s really been playing above the average level. ... And the thing about him, he’s going to be even better. He’s got a lot more ways to improve in his blocking, and he’s really going to be a good special teams player down the road.”
But Alexander is plenty good right now. He has recorded 13 tackles in 16 games, he is the Chiefs’ leading tackler on special teams, and now he has an NFL weekly award to his credit.
“Even before getting drafted, I knew it was going to be something that would help me put my foot in the door,” Alexander said. “Meeting with Toub, he told me the same thing. ... I just took that and ran with it.”