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Pro Bowl debate: Did Paul Posluszny or Kiko Alonso deserve it more?

Pro Bowl debate: Did Paul Posluszny or Kiko Alonso deserve it more? Bills rookie Kiko Alonso was left out of the Pro Bowl, while former Bills linebacker Paul Posluszny is Hawaii-bound. (News file photos)

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Based on feedback I've received from Buffalo Bills fans, the general consensus goes something like this:

Paul Posluszny is a stiff. Kiko Alonso is a legend.

The NFL community disagreed Monday night, when former Bills captain Posluszny and not Alonso was sent to the Pro Bowl as the second alternate at inside linebacker.

Posluszny replaced injured San Francisco 49ers captain Patrick Willis. Hours earlier, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson replaced the 49ers' NaVorro Bowman.

That means the Pro Bowl system didn't rate Alonso at least the sixth-best inside linebacker. Willis, Bowman, Luke Kuechly and Vontaze Burfict were voted in originally. Kuechly and Burfict are healthy and expected to play Sunday in Honolulu.

When we consider Alonso received the most fans votes at his position and the fourth-most among all NFL defenders, it's clear players and coaches -- the other two-thirds of the Pro Bowl selection process -- didn't think so highly of Alonso.

Players cast their ballots by positional committees that comprise 32 team ballots. Position groups vote for their competing opposites, except for special-teamers. For instance, the Bills' offensive linemen decided who the Bills nominated league-wide on the defensive line. Players cannot vote for their teammates.

The NFL clearly respected Buffalo's defense. Pass-rusher Mario Williams, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and safety Jairus Byrd were original Pro Bowlers. Marcell Dareus replaced injured 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith on Monday.

It would seem a stretch for a 6-10 team that struggled to stop the run would send five defensive players -- four of its front-seven starters -- to the Pro Bowl.

But Alonso did have a sweet season.

Because we know them both so well, let's take a closer look at which Bills second-round draft choice deserved the Pro Bowl more.

First point of order is this reminder: Tackles are not an official NFL stat. This is important when comparing linebackers.

The NFL posts tackle numbers on its website based on box scores from each game. But teams keep track of tackles internally while analyzing the coaches' film after the game. The Bills stopped sharing their numbers this season.

Posluszny led the league with 121 solo tackles on NFL.com (only seven players had more than 95 solos) and finished second to Burfict with 161 total tackles.

Alonso finished third in total tackles, but his ranking was reinforced by a league-leading 72 assists. Alonso was tied for 14th in solo tackles.

Tackles for losses also are unofficial, and teams record them differently. The Green Bay Packers, for example, don't track them at all. The Miami Dolphins count half-sacks as full tackles for losses. Other teams will credit half-TFLs.

Alonso had 10 tackles for losses and five pass breakups according to the box scores. He officially had four interceptions, two sacks, a forced fumble and two recoveries.

Posluszny was credited with seven tackles for losses and eight pass breakups. He recorded three sacks, two interceptions (one for a touchdown), a forced fumble and a recovery.

Based purely on those stats, some of which aren't certified, a spirited debate could be delivered for either season.

Analytics site ProFootballFocus.com suggested neither player deserved Pro Bowl recognition. It rated Alonso the NFL's 10th-best inside linebacker, while Posluszny finished 42nd.

However, Posluszny ranked No. 1 in PFF's "run stop percentage" metric and eighth in its "tackling efficiency" metric. Alonso was 18th and ninth, respectively.

Another analytics site, AdvancedNFLStats.com, ranked Alonso second to Bowman among all linebackers, including outside linebackers, in its "win probability added" metric. Posluszny was eighth.

Then there's the dreaded "popularity contest" argument.

The Pro Bowl is a subjective honor. Just as Alonso generated a mountain of fan votes, Posluszny almost certainly was helped by the fact he has been in the NFL seven years and has finished among the top three in unofficial tackles three times in the past four seasons.

Alonso, meanwhile, was a rookie. Often, rookies must wait.

Veterans have to wait, too, sometimes.

Former Bills linebacker London Fletcher is deeply respected throughout the football community. He was 34 years old at his first Pro Bowl.

  • kentonVIC

    All these Buffalo players are so good--they came in last in their division~~

  • Jerry Ballsmacker

    My vote is for the Inside linebacker for the Bengals, known as Swab. He is a fan favorite, plugs the middle of the line and isn't afraid to jump on a pile to dig out loose balls.

  • deecomish

    All in due time. He needs to bulk up and keep studing film--he'll make it in a year or two. This will just motivate him even more...

  • Shadowtoad

    Posluszny deserves it. Alonso had a great year as a rookie but made some obvious run stuffing mistakes that cost the Bills. I also don't get this whole problem that the Bills community has with Pos. He played well for the Bills. We did the same with London Fletcher who is still producing in the league. And don't give me this bull about downfield tackles by the both of them. It was because our defensive lines sucked up to last year.

    • WHAT?

      The problem is that Poz did not play all that well here. He did make tackles too far down the field, and he was consistently a step late in coverage. However, it really appears to me that those problems were likely the result of a scheme that put a high premium on speed, which is why safeties like Bryan Scott ended up playing those positions. In a different scheme, he blossomed into a much more effective player.

  • JoeL

    Alonso had a very good season but is better suited to weakside OLB. Look for Bills to draft ILB in Round 1 or 2.

  • PJ

    Don't forget that with the players voting on it they're going to do what serves them best. Poz has a high cap number this year and faces getting cut. So the players vote him in over Kiko. If Poz gets cut, he will command a high salary somewhere - but it puts the pressure on Jax to keep him. Same with Byrd - even though he didn't have the best of years (missing several games) - the players vote him in so he can get a max contract. Setting the bar higher for salaries trickles down to all the other players.

    • Robert McAvoy

      Given that, I presume you are saying that Marcel Dareus does not deserve it as well. Same players, same coaches voting.

      • PJ

        I'm not saying that Dareus didn't deserve it - but he is going into his contract year (though the Bills have the option to extend it another year). As one of the up and comers in the league, it certainly raises his value come contract time, no?

        All I'm saying is that, performance being relatively equal, it is in the interest of the players to vote the guy in who is close to his contract year.

        • Robert McAvoy

          Interesting point, Never heard tha tone before, but it may be valid.

  • BullGuy

    Alonso is going on the strength of his early season success but he was caught out of position alot in games at the end of the season and regressed. Hopefully he can get in condition to play at 100% in a full 16 game season and not 12 or 13 like he did this year.

  • Ron

    Kiko had an amazing start. Starting the rookie and giving him the responsibility for making calls is significant. Take Notice. Once Offensive Coordinators did they saw what he was doing, my guess is they schemed to take him out of plays. Since he needs to bulk up, Kiko won't be so easily pushed aside and/or overrun plays. Many rookies tire out well into the season. It's long! Look for twenty more pounds and a more experienced Kiko in 2014. Thus guy can play.

  • Hopeless and no change

    One need look no further than Ruben Brown when "analyzing" Pro Bowl worthiness. Since it is the Pro Bowl and no one plays hard, especially on defense, it is appropriate that Poslusny is playing. If there has been another linebacker in the last 10 years that gets as much credit for making tackles 10+ yards downfield I don't know who it is. I can't remember one crushing tackle in the hole from him ever. At least Shane Conlan had that one tackle on Roger Vick that he could fall back on for his entire career.

    • Robert McAvoy

      Even though the coaches and the NFL players picked Poslusny for the Pro Bowl, and that he was #1 in Solo tackles in the NFL and #1 in "Run stop %" it clearly does not outweigh the views of Buffalo Bills fans who say he is no good. Who are you going to believe? Me (Buffalo fans) or your lyin' eyes?
      Silly arguments. Alonso is a very nice and effective player, who will have a nice 4 years with the Bills before they get rid of him as well.

  • David Alexander

    Here is something to think about. There are 7 players going to the pro-bowl who were drafted by the Buffalo Bills. One would think that a team that can draft 7 pro bowl players (8 links to Buffalo if you include Mario Williams) could figure out a way in to the playoffs. We always blame the draft and who we select but the reailty is something else is wrong with the Bills. The decisions of upper management have had a back breaking impact on this organization. The draft guys have not always been correct but there are plenty of teams without 7 drafted players going to the pro-bowl (Lynch and Poz were drafted by Buffalo plus our current players = 7).

  • Djtee Williams

    bull alonzo deserve to go im not even watching it because he didnt go

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Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.