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Mackensie Alexander making strong case for second contract with Bengals

Alexander had a key interception in the Bengals’ upset of the Steelers.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Mackensie Alexander celebrates the win
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Mackensie Alexander has pretty much seen it all this year. Still, Alexander managed to come up with a few firsts in Monday night’s upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The former Clemson standout came up with his first interception of the season and held Pittsburgh slot receiver James Washington without a reception on three targets in turning in his best day as a Bengal to date.

“I thought our DBs really stepped up and made those plays when their number was called,” Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor said after the game.

Cincinnati’s defensive backs help Bengal-killer Ben Roethlisberger to a season-worse passer rating on 62.4. Roethlisberger finished 20 completions in 38 attempts for 178 yards (an average of 4.5 yards per reception), with one touchdown and one interception. And the Bengals limited the Steelers to just 86 yards on the ground in snapping their 11-game losing streak.

Alexander, who was rated by Pro Football Focus as the fourth best run-stopping defensive back in the NFL last season, was a big part of helping to hold Pittsburgh’s running attack to an average of 3.7 yards per carry. He finished with six solo tackles to go with his two passes defensed.

A second-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, Alexander had been solid, if not underwhelming, for the Vikings through his first four years in the league. Injuries derailed his rookie campaign, and the former Clemson standout failed to finish a full 16-game slate while with Minnesota.

His best season was probably 2018 when he played in 15 games with six starts, 43 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and 10 passes defensed.

Alexander was something of an under-the-radar signing for the Bengals, and came to Cincinnati on a $4 million, one-year prove-it deal. His year got off to a very strange start when his father was reported missing in Florida. His father was eventually found safe, and Alexander was charged with assaulting the man who was with Alexander’s father when he went missing. Those charges were later dropped.

Those issues hampered his debut with Cincinnati, and he missed two of the Bengals’ first five games with a hamstring injury. His showing against Pittsburgh on November 15, where he saw the field on only 21% of the defensive snaps as he continued to struggle with his hamstring, was probably a low point in the season for him.

Still, Alexander has made his mark with the Bengals. Monday night was his ninth start of the season, and he has already posted a career high in tackles with 46.

In addition, Alexander got his chance to make amends for his sluggish performance the first time the two teams met. And he responded with probably his best performance of the year.

Alexander has more than out-performed his contract with the Bengals, and should be in line for a healthy raise next season. Hopefully, he will continue to be in the orange and black for some time to come.