The Buffalo Bills were dealt a devastating blow last week when the team announced that star middle linebacker Kiko Alonso will be out indefinitely with a torn ACL. Alonso suffered the injury while working out in Oregon last week and the team confirmed their worst fears via Twitter.
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) July 2, 2014
Alonso leaves a large hole in the Bills front seven that first year defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will have to creatively fill. Schwartz had plans to move Alonso to weak side linebacker this year, but those plans will obviously be altered with the recent injury announcement.
So who steps in to fill the loss of Kiko Alonso?
During the off-season, the Bills signed a pair of veteran linebackers in former New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes, and former Cincinnati Bengals/New York Giants linebacker Keith Rivers. Rivers does have experience playing weak side linebacker, but will more than likely fit in on the strong side.
Other options to replace Alonso would be, 2012 fourth-round pick Nigel Bradham, or rookie third-round pick Preston Brown. Both players are younger, more athletic options than their veteran counterparts, creating an intriguing position battle entering camp.
Although much of Schwartz defensive system predicates itself on creating pressure up front, the linebacking core has their fair share of responsibilities in terms of coverage and gap recognition. If Schwartz history is any indication, the linebackers must tackle well across the field. With that being said, all four of the potential linebackers set to replace Alonso can tackle well, but given their athleticism, Brown and Bradham look like the early favourites to replace Alonso.
Let’s be honest though, replacing Kiko Alonso is a daunting task when you watch him on film and he makes out-of-this-world plays like the one below.
But hey, somebody is going to have to do it! Let’s take a look at the four players who can fill in for the injured Kiko Alonso.