The Buffalo Bills lost one of the game’s best playmaking linebackers in Kiko Alonso, who racked up the stat sheet in an incredibly impressive rookie campaign out of Oregon. It’s rare to have a linebacker who can play at a high level against the run and pass, but Alonso is a Luke Kuechly-esque young talent at LB. He combines rare instincts and athleticism to lock down players in coverage, and he’s assured in run defense. The Bills have plenty of depth at linebacker and can make do without Alonso, and they have some impressive run defenders at the position. Alonso’s pass defense and playmaking ability, however, will be missed, but, again, that doesn’t mean their other solid linebackers should be overlooked.
Rookie Preston Brown is a talented two-down thumper who can bring it against the run, and Keith Rivers is a quality veteran starter. But the guy who interests me the most at the linebacker position, aside from stout free-agent addition Brandon Spikes, is Nigel Bradham. He isn’t a spectacular player, but he’s been solid ever since the Bills drafted him in 2012. He doesn’t embarrass himself in coverage at all, and he consistently makes an impact in run defense.
According to Syracuse.com’s Matthew Fairburn, Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has been impressed with Bradham, as he gave “high praise” to the third-year Florida State product. Schwartz stated that Bradham has made consistent improvements “since even before OTAs”, and this is definitely good news. Brown will get snaps and should make an impact, but I think Bradham is the true “next man up” in the place of Alonso.