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Alonso injury massive blow to Bills' plans

The SportsXchange

The Buffalo Bills confirmed linebacker Koko Alonso suffered a torn ACL in his left knee while working out in Oregon on Tuesday and is expected to miss the entire 2014 season.

Alonso, the runner-up for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013, was already recovering from offseason hip surgery before he hurt his knee. He will be scheduled for surgery after the swelling subsides.

"He will be scheduled for surgery in the near future and begin a rehabilitation program at the appropriate time," Bills "We feel badly for Kiko because he has worked very hard this offseason in preparation for the upcoming season, but we look forward to his return with his style of play that made him one of the league's outstanding rookies in 2013," Bills general manager Doug Whaley said in a statement.

The loss of Alonso throws a big wrench into the Bills' plans for their linebacker corps.

In organized team activities last month, the Bills revealed their intention to move Alonso to weak-side linebacker in new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's 4-3 system. Last year, Alonso played every defensive snap, 1,145, at middle linebacker.

He did not fully participate in OTA workouts due to his hip rehab.

The Bills did sign veteran linebackers Keith Rivers and Brandon Spikes during free agency, and had planned to play Rivers on the strong side and Spikes in the middle. The unit is now in flux with the big hole created by Alonso's injury.

Rivers could move to the weak side with the Bills sliding rookie third-rounder Preston Brown from the middle to the strong side. Another option is Manny Lawson, who started 15 games on the strong side last season, but the role is different under Schwartz and he was expected to play primarily at end this season.

The team could also keep the oft-injured Rivers on the strong side and gamble that Nigel Bradham can improve his run defense under Schwartz and handle the weak-side job.

In 2013, Alonso led the Bills with 159 tackles, which ranked third in the NFL. He made the league's all-rookie team and finished behind only New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson in voting for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Alonso, 23, was a second-round pick (46th overall) out of Oregon in 2013. The 6-foot-3, 238-pounder compiled two sacks, four interceptions, one forced fumble and four passes defensed as a rookie.

The highlight of Alonso's season might have been a 22-tackle performance in the Bills' 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 13.
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