Linebacker U?: LSU reunion with Falcons-Bucs matchup

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones knows something about Kwon Alexander others maybe don’t.

Sure, Alexander flies all over the field with an intense passion. He’ll use his blazing speed to blast a running back behind the line of scrimmage or poke the ball away from a crossing receiver. But there’s another aspect about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers star that makes him somewhat unique, at least in Jones’ opinion.

"On the field he’s a hard-baller, but off the field he is the goofiest," Jones said with a laugh. "Man, he’s so goofy. He plays [jokes] all day, every day. And I think that’s what brought us all so close."

The bond Jones made reference to dates back to college at LSU, where Jones and Alexander were members of the Tigers’ 2012 recruiting class. There will be a ``linebacker reunion’’ Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when the Falcons and Buccaneers meet for the first time this season. LSU is known more as DBU, but this group of linebackers might sway those thoughts another way.

Not only will Jones and Alexander get to enjoy a moment, but rookies and fellow Tigers Duke Riley of the Falcons and Kendell Beckwith of the Buccaneers also will share the field with Jones and Alexander for the first time since the 2014 Music City Bowl against Notre Dame.

Jones leads the Falcons with 82 combined tackles while Alexander is starting to get into a groove again after missing multiple games with a hamstring injury. Riley returns to the lineup Sunday after missing four games following knee surgery, while Beckwith, who entered the league off a torn ACL, has seven starts under his belt and is tied with Lavonte David for the team lead with six tackles for losses.

Jones’ play always impresses Alexander.

"When I do see him, he be balling," Alexander said. "He cut it loose. I talked to him a lot. He’s just reading everything faster now and getting better and better every year.

According to LSU’s official website, there are 40 former Tigers currently on NFL active rosters after cornerback Jalen Collins got waived by the Falcons earlier this week. Another five, including Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants, are on injured reserve. And there are five on practice squads.

Seven of the players on active rosters are linebackers.

"We just be balling, man," Alexander said of the linebacker crew. "Run around and hit and have fun. We love the game. We’re small guys. A lot of people don’t know anything about us because they’re always looking at the bigger guy. But we know how to bring that thump and chase people down. Now they’re trying to get everybody like that and we started that. That’s it, bro. We breathe football. We love it. We try to take people’s head off and get to the rock."

Jones said the primary group of linebackers that stays in touch includes himself, Alexander, Riley, Beckwith, Kevin Minter of the Cincinnati Bengals, Lamin Barrow of the Miami Dolphins, free-agent linebacker Lamar Louis, and current Tigers Donnie Alexander and Devin White.

Jones, Alexander, and Riley worked out at Lake Lanier in Georgia back in July with performance coach Albert Brock of AB xplode. The sessions lasted more than two hours.

There was no trash talk during those workouts regarding how the NFC South might unfold this season.

"We really don’t talk crap until game day," Jones said. "This week, I’ve been texting Kwon all week."

Jones, who calls Alexander, "Tip," tried to remain supportive to his close friend when Alexander tragically lost his brother two years ago and feels so close to Alexander’s mother, Peaches, that he calls her "Momma" too.

Riley feels just as close to Alexander and Beckwith.

"Kwon's my son's godfather," Riley said. "Kendall's one of my best friends. I came in with him. We always stay in contact, keep in contact. We always work out together. We're always staying competitive and pushing each other to make each other better."

When asked which linebacker is the fastest of the group, Jones proclaimed himself without hesitation. At the NFL combine, Alexander ran a 4.55, Riley a 4.58, and Jones a 4.59, although Jones was timed at 4.38 at LSU’s pro day.

"We all fast," Riley said with smile. "The fastest? Man, I don't know, shoot."

We’ll see which Tigers speed ahead come Sunday.