The reason became a little clearer this week during 2013 organized team activities, with Alualu – the No. 10 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft – saying Wednesday he expects to play defensive end extensively in first-year Head Coach Gus Bradley’s defense.
It’s a big story, and a significant change.
And it’s one about which Alualu hardly could be more happy.
“It’s an adjustment having more space, but I’m enjoying it,” Alualu said Wednesday after the third of 10 scheduled OTA practices at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields just outside EverBank Field.
Alualu, who has battled a knee injury while starting all 16 games in each of his first three seasons, played defensive end in a three-linemen, four-linebacker scheme at California in college. He has worked at times at end in the NFL, but has played mostly as a three-technique tackle.
In Bradley’s defense, he will play as a run-oriented defensive end opposite the Leo position, a pass-rushing linebacker/end role where veteran
Alualu has worked at the end in all three OTA practices this week, he said.
“We vary some of the techniques we play, and we just felt in the D (defensive) line he had the most ability to play multiple positions,” Bradley said. “He has shown that, to give us the different looks that we want to get. We’re trying him out there.
“We feel it’s a good fit. He’s all in favor of it. He feels like it’s a better fit for him.”
Bradley said defensive line coach Todd Wash began talking about the idea of playing Alualu at end early in the coaches’ evaluation process in January and February.
“We did that with everybody: we said, ‘This is the group we have; how can we place them and have the best possible chance to succeed within the system?’” Bradley said. “Todd Wash brought that up. He said, ‘You know what? He’s shown some reps playing out there. He did a nice job. We like a little bigger guy out there to hold the edge.’ He’s done a good job.”
Alualu added, “I knew having a new head coach and new system, I’d have to come out and compete. They just said they’re going to watch us play and put us in positions we can succeed in. This is part of the adjustment and I’m liking it so far.”
“It’s a position we’re competing for,” Alualu said. “I’m just trying to get better at that.”
Alualu said what he will be doing is similar to what he played in college.
“It’s been a couple of years, so I’m trying to get it back – the feel of having more space,” he said. “But in the three practices that I’ve had the opportunity to work at it . . . I’m loving it, and I think I can only get better from here.”
Alualu said while he has experience to play inside, coaches have indicated the plan is to have him play end on a permanent basis.
“This is the plan for right now, trying to get me used to playing that position,” he said. “I don’t know what will happen down the road. I’m ready for whatever. I’m just trusting the process. They see this as working toward my strengths, so I’m enjoying it.”
Alualu for the last three seasons has played despite nagging knee issues. He underwent microfracture surgery last January, and spent last offseason rehabilitating before being able to practice in training camp. He is practicing full in OTAS and said his knee feels as good as it has during any NFL offseason.
“It’s real close to one hundred percent,” Alualu said, adding that playing defensive end should mean less wear and tear on his knee: “That helps a lot.”