Following the loss of Alonso, it’s going to be tough filling the void that the 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up left in the starting lineup.
While the Bills have several decent linebackers who can step up and fill the void, the weakside linebacker spot isn’t exactly a plug-and-play position in Jim Schwartz’ defensive scheme. The position is crucial to Buffalo’s 4-3 attack, which is why Alonso made the switch from middle linebacker this offseason. Now that Alonso is out of the picture, it’s not going to be easy find a replacement.
The Bills’ best bet to fill the void is Nigel Bradham, who was slated for backup duties in 2013. While Bradham is certainly a talented young linebacker who can essentially replace Alonso’s production against the run, he falls well short in terms of coverage abilities.
The other option is rookie Preston Brown, who the Bills spent a third-round pick on back in May. The Louisville product showed some solid instincts in coverage during his college career, but might not have the athleticism or speed to get the job done in the NFL. He’s more of an early-down linebacker who excels at playing downhill against the run, which might take him out of the running to step in for Alonso.
No matter who steps into the starting job, they’ll be a significant downgrade from Alonso – at least in terms of pass coverage. The athletic, instinctive Alonso flew around the field making plays for the Bills last season, but will likely miss the entire 2014 campaign after being slapped with a 7-9 month recovery time.
The Bills now face the daunting task of replacing arguably their most impactful defensive player. We’ll see if Bradham can step up his game or if Buffalo will be desperately missing Alonso before long.