Could the Buffalo Bills have finally found an every-down man in the middle?
If the last month of training camp and preseason—albeit a single game—is any indication, they may just have their guy.
Kiko Alonso was the team’s second of two second-round picks in this past April’s draft, and he was expected to immediately come in to a defense that ranked 22nd in total yards per game last season and help out.
It's a lot of pressure to place on somebody who wasn't a first-round pick, but the Bills obviously feel that Alonso can handle the responsibility.
Buffalo’s plans for Alonso were made even more apparent when the team traded former starting MLB Kelvin Sheppard to Indianapolis for pass-rusher Jerry Hughes.
It officially began the tenure of Alonso as the team’s starting inside linebacker, and boy, has he made the most of the opportunity.
From showing the ability to diagnose run plays on the go, to his ability to cover tight ends over the middle, Alonso has emerged as the man ready to take on the role of the leader of a hopefully resurgent Bills defense.
He has been calling the plays and making formation adjustments with the No. 1 unit during training camp, and Alonso should be making the calls when the games start for real on September 8.
He’s done everything that has been asked of him so far, and he is showing the potential to be a very, very good football player in the NFL for years to come.
Despite all the good, however, there is an area of slight concern with the former Oregon Duck.
Often at camp practices Alonso has looked a bit too eager to rush to the line in situations where he should be more patient. Some may call it trying to do too much while others view it as overzealousness of a rookie.
Call it what you want, aggressiveness is a nice thing to have from a young linebacker on a unit that hasn’t had a player like that since Takeo Spikes left in 2007.
However, it is something that may get him and the defense in trouble if it allows an opponent to make a big play. That’s an issue, though, that the team will address if the need arises.
For now, the Bills are in a situation they haven’t been in, arguably, since the early 00s: they have a linebacker they can build a defense around.
So buckle up Bills fans, you’re in for a ride that you will never want to get off of.