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Brian Urlacher: Kiko Alonso 'everything you want out of a middle linebacker'

Brian Urlacher: Kiko Alonso 'everything you want out of a middle linebacker' Kiko Alonso and Brian Urlacher (News file photos)

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NEW YORK -- Brian Urlacher is excited about the NFL's group of up-and-coming linebackers.

Near the top of his list is Buffalo Bills rookie Kiko Alonso.

Urlacher, the former Chicago Bears middle linebacker, received the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award 13 years ago. He said Alonso deserves the honor this time.

"Kiko should win it," Urlacher said Tuesday at the Super Bowl media center in Manhattan. "He had a great season. He's the one rookie that actually stood out to me from the beginning. It should be his award to win."

The award will be given Saturday night at a ceremony in Radio City Music Hall. Alonso would be the first Bill to win the award since Shane Conlan in 1987. Jim Haslett won it in 1979.

Alonso's main competition will come from New York Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. Other candidates are Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotuelelei, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Tyronn Mathieu and San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid.

Alonso led the Bills with 159 tackles, 11 for losses. He had two sacks, four interceptions a forced fumble and two recoveries.

"He's got the skill set you want," Urlacher said. "He's athletic. He can rush the passer. He's got great coverage skills with those picks. He can hit. He can run. He's everything you want out of a middle linebacker."

Alonso was voted the NFL's top defensive rookie for September, when he collected all of his interceptions and seemed to make a big tackle each Sunday.

But he had zero interceptions and zero forced fumbles after September. He had one sack and one recovery.

"He started off strong," Urlacher said. "He had a ton of picks and some sacks. I don't know if he hit the rookie wall, but he started out strong."

Urlacher, an eight-time Pro Bowler now working for Fox Sports as an analyst, was impressed with how quickly Alonso picked up Mike Pettine's defense.

Although Alonso will have to learn another scheme now that Jim Schwartz is defensive coordinator, Urlacher predicted no trouble with the transition. Urlacher also endorsed the hire.

"The hardest thing as a rookie is learning the defense correctly, knowing where everyone has to fit, knowing what checks you have to make," Urlacher said. "That was the hardest thing for me my first couple years, but it seemed like he did a really good job with it."

  • Dave

    No doubt that Kiko deserves to win the top honor as defensive rookie of the year. He far exceeded expectations compared to where he was drafted in the 2nd round. All of the other nominees had much more hype and notoriety going into the draft.

    The fact that he didn’t make the pro bowl is a travesty in itself. Alonso
    was third in the NFL in tackles and he never came off the field; he played
    nearly 1,200 snaps.

    • phoenix110

      AND he was first in fan voting, by a lot. (335,878 to next nearest 222,188).

  • Big Jake

    The Buffalo Bills are the laughing stock of the NFL. Fourteen years without a playoff birth. Jesus, in 14 years, you think they'd at least accidentally land a single playoff birth. Not Buffalo. I'm glad to see some decent up and comers like Kiko, but he'll be gone a his earliest opportunity as the Bills' front office continues to make a mockery of the fans.

    • gordiduk

      And who is your favorite team Big Jake?

      • TOMP

        sounds like the Bills to me...He just feeling the same pain the rest of us are.

      • Troy Berkely

        Just can't admit the truth can you? Buffalo is so sensitive, and has been in denial for the past 30 years. Say something that is the truth and they get their panties in wad. Try electing officials who actually do something, instead of ones who make promises they never keep, raise taxes and commit fraud while taking bribes! NIce! At least the Bills are a diversion from the harsh realities that needs to be changed but lack people with the courage to do anything about it! Hows that for truth?

    • Patrick Anonymous

      Big Jake is a motivational speaker on his off days.
      ...and he may live in a van down by the river! Matt Foley anyone?

  • Lance Boil

    "He started off strong," Urlacher said. "He had a ton of picks and some sacks. I don't know if he hit the rookie wall, but he started out strong." - Agree with Urlacher however he is a bit small to stop the run.

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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.