When the Buffalo Bills took Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the team knew they were bringing in an explosive defensive talent that possessed the speed and versatility that the new staff has revered in each of its acquisitions. With the signing of his rookie deal last Wednesday, the team officially has the talented linebacker under contract.
At 6'3" 238 lb., the California-native has 4.68 speed and is effective in coverage and stopping the run as a middle linebacker.
"I think he can play two (positions)," said head coach Doug Marrone after Alonso was drafted. "He's a big kid. You see it on the clips. He can play man-to-man, he has good zone awareness, has a bunch of pass breakups. You see it from a coverage standpoint and then you also see him coming downhill making plays and he has a lot of tackles for losses. So he can make big plays from that linebacker position in both coverage and the running game.
Alonso's playmaking ability is not the only asset the team is impressed with. The coaching staff has also expressed confidence in Alonso's play calling, something he gained experience with in college. At Oregon, Alonso called out the defensive signals, and he has been handed that responsibility once more with the Bills.
"It gives me lots of confidence [knowing the coaches trust me]," said Alonso. "I feel like I fit into [this defense] because I know what I'm doing and that way I can make plays."
Running the show can be a difficult prospect, especially for a rookie, but Alonso is unfazed by the challenges of leading players with far more NFL experience.
"No [it's not weird leading more seasoned players]," said Alonso. "I'm confident doing it."
Alonso's coverage and rush abilities, in conjunction with his signal calling, make him a well-rounded linebacker and the rookie could see time on all three downs. In Monday's practice Alonso took first team reps for the first time with the veterans in OTAs.
"When you look at Kiko as a linebacker, he can be not necessarily a nickel or third down linebacker, but a three down backer potentially in the system," said Marrone.
Throughout rookie minicamps and OTAs, Alonso has operated out of the 'mike' linebacker spot, but coaches believe he can be moved around and can be impactful in multiple roles.
"A young player who probably has not played as much as maybe the other players we've had, but he's shown that he can play multiple positions," said Marrone. "He's shown that he can play on teams. He's shown that he's instinctive and from the standpoint of developing him there are things that he has to develop which is our job as coaches when he comes in here that are correctable. And we are excited about that."
Alonso has been just as excited with his short time in Buffalo and the work he has put in.
"It's been awesome, better than I expected," said Alonso. "It's been awesome. I think I'm a very aggressive player and that's what they want here so I should be a fit."
Alonso was a two-year starter at Oregon after sitting out the 2010 season due to off-field issues. With his personal life under control, Alonso had his best season in 2012 where he posted 81 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a sack.
His best single-game came on one of the biggest stages in college football: the 2012 Rose Bowl. In that game, Alonso had five tackles, two and a half for losses, and one and a half sacks. In the third quarter, Alonso came up with a diving interception that allowed Oregon to take the lead.
Like many other new Bills, Alonso is impressed with the atmosphere at One Bills Drive and believes success lies ahead.
"Yeah I like it," said Alonso. "I think we have a chance to be really good."