Just as the Buffalo Bills defense was shaping up to be one of the AFC’s finest, star linebacker Kiko Alonso has blown his knee out. Alonso reportedly tore his ACL during offseason workouts in Oregon and is expected to miss the entire 2014 NFL season.
Alonso compiled 159 tackles in his rookie campaign in a brilliant display of athleticism in 2013. The Bills brought in Brandon Spikes to fill Alonso’s role as Middle Linebacker, as they planned to move Alonso to the weak side where he was likely to see more sack opportunities and create more turnovers.
This injury will certainly send the Bills defense sliding down fantasy football draft boards, but you shouldn’t let them fall too far in your rankings. Alonso is a big loss, but their front seven is still one of the best. Mario Williams has been great since joining the team in 2012, and Spikes should slot in nicely. Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus are outstanding cogs in the middle, and Nigel Bradham has been better than expected. The Bills have an average secondary that could get exposed if the pass rush worsens, however, and that will be something to keep an eye on.
The Bills are still in the midst of a rebuild. Let’s be honest, they weren’t expected to be contenders until next year, so Alonso’s injury shouldn’t derail their plans for the future too much. The biggest concern for Bills fans should be whether or not Alonso can return to his original form. ACL tears are about as serious as they get. Surgeons have been improving the quality of ACL repairs, reducing recovery time and strength significantly in recent years, as is most evidenced by Adrian Peterson‘s incredible recovery.
Alonso is young enough that a speedy recovery should be expected. But even if he recovers physically, he will have to be able to regain full confidence in his knee’s stability so that he can attack his strength rehabilitation with full intensity. The sooner he can resume training, the sooner he can help the Bills end the league’s longest playoff drought.