Breaking Down Kiko Alonso's Amazing Start to Rookie Season

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Breaking Down Kiko Alonso's Amazing Start to Rookie Season
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

When Kiko Alonso was taken with the No. 46 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills, the former Oregon Duck wasn't thought to be an immediate impact player.

Sure, you'd love to get something from your rookie second-round pick but you couldn't expect this kind of production this early in his career.

Through the first six games of his professional career, Alonso is leading the NFL in tackles with 66 and is tied for the lead in interceptions with four. 

NFL's top tacklers after Week 6
Player Team Tackles
Kiko Alonso Buffalo Bills 66
Vontaze Burfict Cincinnati Bengals 61
Sean Lee Dallas Cowboys 60
Karlos Dansby Arizona Cardinals 57
D'Qwell Jackson Cleveland Browns 57

ESPN.com

In fact, according to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, only 15 linebackers in NFL history have intercepted at least four passes in a single season. Alonso accomplished that in the first four games of his career.

For his efforts he was named the NFL's defensive rookie of the month in September. 

It's fair to say he's made more than just an immediate impact. Alonso has been one of the few bright spots on an underachieving Bills defense. He's also established himself as one of the young up-and-coming linebackers in the NFL.

Last season it was Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, as he was the talk of the NFL as the next great linebacker. 

Through their first six NFL games, Luke Kuechly vs Kiko Alonso
Player Tackles Sacks FF INT
Luke Kuechly 51 0 0 1
Kiko Alonso 66 1 1 4

ESPN.com

For as much publicity as Kuechly was getting during his standout rookie season, at least from looking strictly at the numbers, Alonso should be getting that same praise this year based on what he's done to this point. 

One big difference is Kuechly was taken with the No. 9 overall pick back in 2012, and being a top-10 pick means you're going to get the spotlight on everything that you do. The expectations are a little different with a second-round pick, at least from a fan's perspective. 

 

Not to take anything away from Kuechly because he's a fantastic young player, who actually finished his rookie season as the NFL's leading tackler with 164.

But he had eyes on him from day one and they expected him to come in and make an impact right away. 

Alonso has been more of a pleasant surprise for those in Buffalo. 

For those people that watched him play at Oregon, they saw a fierce downhill runner that didn't lack the required closing speed or athleticism to play in the NFL.

The question was whether or not that would translate over to the NFL, where guys are bigger, stronger and faster. 

Through the first six games of the season it's translated pretty well. 

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When you hear a draft analyst talk about why the 40-yard dash is an overrated measure of speed, it's simply because game speed is not the same as someone's 40-yard dash time.

Alonso is a great example of a player who plays faster than his 40-time would indicate. 

On this play against the Cleveland Browns, Alonso shows exceptional closing speed to chase down the play from the back side.

His relentless pursuit of the running back was on display all night against the Browns, where he finished the game with 12 tackles. 

Making these kinds of plays helps your team win games, that's without question. But in today's NFL you still need some of those 'flashy' plays in order to be noticed and talked about in the mainstream narrative. It's unfair and slightly depressing to think about, but it's true.  

Big plays at big times are what people remember, and Alonso has had a couple of memorable plays already this season. 

The Bills beat the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in a thrilling game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week 4.

It was a huge home win for Buffalo and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, the defending Super Bowl MVP, was picked off a whopping five times in the game. But none were more crucial than Alonso's second pick of the game. 

With less than a minute remaining and the Ravens trailing 23-20 and driving into Bills territory, Alonso made an unbelievable diving catch for an interception to seal the win for the Bills.

This was the first of his two big memorable plays so far this season. The second came a week later against the Cleveland Browns.

On 2nd-and-goal from the half-yard line, Alonso leaped over the line of scrimmage and helped bring down Browns running back Willis McGahee. It was a play that everyone was talking about. 

While the Browns did score a touchdown on the very next play, the image was still there for everyone to see and remember.

Will Buffalo Bills rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso win the 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award?

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Alonso probably doesn't care about the fantastic image of him diving over a pile Superman style because he knows ultimately the Browns scored a touchdown on that drive.

But again, that's one of those 'flashy' plays that people will remember regardless of the result soon after. 

So as long as Alonso continues to dominate the middle of the Bills defense and put up numbers like he's done so far this season, the discussion of that Superman play and diving interception will be the footnotes of a successful rookie season, and not necessarily the main talking points. 

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