Buffalo Bills: Is Kiko Alonso the Answer at Linebacker?
The 2013 Buffalo Bills will definitely bring a completely different look to the defensive side of the ball.
New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who came over from the same position with the New York Jets, will bring his hybrid version of an NFL defense to another team in the AFC East. Fans should expect to see multiple looks and formations.
For his defense to be successful, the Bills will have to get much better play out of the linebacker position than they did a year ago.
The Bills used their second of two second-round picks (No.46 overall) on linebacker Kiko Alonso out of Oregon. Alonso was the fifth linebacker taken in the draft and only Manti Te'o and Kevin Minter went ahead of him as inside linebackers.
Alonso should have the chance to be a day-one starter for the Bills, a huge opportunity considering his off-field trouble in college, as outlined here by Tim Gardner of USA Today. Despite that, the Bills still saw enough potential in Alonso to spend a high draft pick on him.
Alonso gives the team many options at the linebacker position. He is a solid tackler and times his blitzes quite well. He is also above-average in pass coverage and can handle a tight end or even a slot receiver one-on-one. But what likely attracted the Bills to him is his versatility.
Pettine will love what he can do with Alonso, who can play any of the linebacker positions. Pettine will be able to line him up all over the defensive formation, making him a perfect fit for the scheme that he wants to bring in.
Though he is just a rookie with a sketchy past, Alonso could easily win over his new teammates with his play on the field and become one of the defensive leaders going forward.
So where will Alonso be relied upon the most? He will have to be able to match up with a guy like New England's Danny Amendola coming across the middle or step up to the stop a running back in the hole. These are things Alonso can do very well.
The Bills will ask him to wear many hats in their defense, but he will have help from veteran Manny Lawson, whom the team picked up through free agency, as well as the emerging Nigel Bradham.
Alonso, Lawson and Bradham. That sounds a lot better than any linebacker combination the team put on the field in 2012.
The Bills have not had a linebacker make the Pro Bowl since Takeo Spikes achieved the honor following the 2004 season. Alonso may be the team's best chance to end that drought in years.
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