Kiko Alonso was a second-round pick for the Buffalo Bills in 2013, starting all 16 games for the team, recording 159 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, four interceptions, and five passes defensed. He was clearly a player who would become the center piece of the Bills defense for years to come.
Except, he did not.
Alonso tore his ACL during an offseason workout in Oregon before the 2014 season, and missed the entire year. The Bills then traded Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2015 season, receiving running back LeSean McCoy in return. Alonso was reunited with his college football coach Chip Kelly in the move, and was expected to take the next step in his development as an NFL player, becoming a dominant player for Kelly.
Except, he did not.
With the Eagles in 2015, Alonso only played 11 games, starting once, and recorded 43 tackles with one interception. He sustained a partial tear of the previously torn ACL during the season.
Miami traded for Alonso, along with cornerback Byron Maxwell, this offseason, looking to upgrade their linebacking corps. The expectation is that, Alonso, with two years past since the complete tear of his ACL, will be ready to return to the form that had fans in Buffalo excited about the linebacker back in 2013. Will Miami have a healthy, dominant Alonso in 2016?
“Yes, I feel great,” Alonso said this week about feeling more like himself and being healthy this year.
“That is the goal,” Alonso added about if he is trying to get back to his rookie year form. "If not get that, then do better than that. I’m trying to keep improving and get back to myself.”
Alonso was asked of the linebackers feel any pressure heading into this year after the team, without Alonso, struggled against the run last year. “A lot of pressure, but it starts up front. We got some really good guys up front that can make the job a lot easier for us as linebackers.
“The coaches are putting us in good positions to be successful.”
The Dolphins head into the season with a starting linebacker corps likely consisting of Jelani Jenkins at the weakside linebacker position, Alonso playing the middle linebacker spot, and Koa Misi returning to the strongside. Alonso thinks the group will be able to find the success they did not have, with Jenkins, Kelvin Sheppard, and Misi last year, due in part to injuries, last year. “I think we got a lot of great players that bring a lot of different skillsets. I think the sky’s the limit in this group.”
Alonso has a unique view of a giant question mark surrounding the Dolphins and their 2016 roster at this point: Dion Jordan. The suspended defensive end/linebacker for the Dolphins, their 2013 third-overall draft pick, has applied for reinstatement from the NFL, but has not yet been allowed to return to the team. He was suspended in April 2015 for a third failed drug test, this one for a diluted sample he provided, a sample he says he was worried would show alcohol in his system.
Alonso and Jordan were teammates and roommates at Oregon. “That guy is a freak athlete,” Alonso said of Jordan, “so I think he can help any defense, because he (has) such a rare athleticism that can do all types of things.”
Asked if Jordan is more of a defensive end or a linebacker, Alonso replied, “I think he’s very versatile. He can rush the passer, He can cover. He can play the run. I think that’s what makes him so special.”
Jordan’s place with the team - and his desire to play football - will be a question mark surrounding the team throughout the summer. Asked what Jordan’s mindset is heading into the year, Alonso replied simply, “That’s a Dion question.”
The conversation with Alonso returned to his role with the team, and how the coaching staff will be looking to use him. “It really just depends (on if I am in coverage). I’m sure if we’re in a Cover 1 or something, I don’t think I’ll be Cover 1 on a wide receiver. I’ll probably be on a tight end or running back.”
Alonso discussed the team’s use of the “Wide-9” scheme this year, “It’s similar to (Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim) Schwartz’s defense, which was my second year in Buffalo. Obviously, I missed that year, but I was able to be in that a little bit watching film, and I played a little bit before I got injured in OTAs.”
Miami will absolutely be relying on Alonso and expecting him to play like the 2013 version of himself. Hopefully, with time to get his knee fully healthy, the Dolphins will find themselves with a steal in the trade with the Eagles.