There are still a few weeks left in the NFL season and plenty of time left for individual players to make their case for postseason awards, but the race for defensive rookie of the year should be all but over. The choice is obvious — it’s Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Despite the fact that Alonso doesn’t play a position where he can rack up an eye-catching number of sacks or come up with a lot of highlight-reel interceptions, and despite the fact that he doesn’t play for a playoff-caliber team, Alonso has stood out above all other rookies this season.
His emergence has been a bit of a surprise as he’s not the fastest or flashiest player, and his off-field problems in college and skill set didn’t create high expectations for his rookie campaign. However, Alonso has let his play on the field do all the talking, and the talking has been extremely loud.
As Buffalo’s middle linebacker, Alonso has patrolled the middle of the field for the Bills all season long, taking advantage of a strong defensive front and helping to make up for a questionable secondary. With three games left to play, Alonso already has over 130 tackles, including 10 that have gone for a loss.
If he’s not making the tackle on the play, it’s a virtual guarantee that Alonso is nearby, and every time the Buffalo defense makes a big play, it’s likely that Alonso had something to do with it.
Alonso had a key interception in Buffalo’s one-point win over the Carolina Panthers in Week 2, and then picked off two passes in their three-point win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4. He’s been instrumental during the few wins the Bills have managed this season, and he’s helped keep them close in their losses, including a 22-tackle performance in their overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Alonso has become an indispensable part of Buffalo’s defense, and his production this season has been incredible even if you were to ignore the fact that he’s a rookie. as Alonso is among the NFL’s leaders in tackles. There are few defensive players that have stood out this season as much as Alonso, and while strong arguments can be made for a few other rookies, he is the obvious choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013.