Chip Kelly has added a few Oregon grads (Dennis Dixon, Pat Chung) during his short time with the Eagles. Many speculate Kelly will not stop there and add at least one more former Oregon player in this year's draft. The guy most fans predict to join the team via the draft is versatile linebacker Dion Jordan, but there is another talented linebacker that Kelly is familiar with, that could make a big impact on the Birds.
Kiko Alonso was force for the Ducks this season during his senior year. Used mostly at a rotational player during his career Oregon due to injuries (ACL sophomore year) and off-the-field drama (suspended for all of 2010 for DUI), Alonso took advantage of his extended time on the field in 2012, collecting 81 tackles (lead team with 14 TFL), one sack, four interceptions, and two fumbles. He was also the Defensive Player of the Game at the 2011 Rose Bowl where he owned current Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson (1.5 sacks and one interception).
Draft analysts are fans of Alonso's athleticism and football IQ. CBS Sports says Alonso has "good flexibility and balance when dropping back into coverage and has the athleticism to handle responsibilities in man coverage. Good awareness in zone and possesses good hand-eye coordination and ball skills, overall." NFL.com agrees, mentioning that Alfonso "attacks (sic) blocker with the correct shoulder, and powerful hands. Moves forward quickly. Times his blitzes well. Fast enough to keep up with running backs on quick swings in the flats."
Both websites admire his ability to play multiple positions. NFL's scouting reports states that Alonso is a "versatile inside linebacker with potential to play either middle linebacker (in a 4-3 or 3-4 base defense) or outside linebacker (in a 4-3)." CBS acknowledges Alonso's range, stating he is a "versatile defender who could prove to be a moveable "chess piece" for a creative defensive coordinator. Just starting to scratch the surface of his potential."
Alonso obviously has his lumps as well. People are not going to forget about his history with injuries and the law. Also, with one year of starting experience, he does not have the ideal resume. CBS mentions that Alonso is still a work in progress due to his lack of experience, stating "only emerged as a full-time starter as a senior... Was not often asked to take on and shed blockers at the point of attack in this scheme, though when he did, Alonso's aggression and arm length were usually effective. Is a bit of an agitator on the field. Is very willing to play to and through the whistle when he can." NFL.com picks on his ability to control his body, saying Alonso is "a bit tentative between the tackles, especially against a lead blocker. Misdirection trips him up due to lack of quick twitch change of direction. Loses sight of quarterback in coverage, turns to look at the receiver."
NFL.com compares Alonso to long-time Vikings SAM linebacker, Ben Leber. While CBS gets a little ambitious by comparing Alonso to Arizona Cardinal stud inside linebacker, Daryl Washington. CBS projects him as 3rd or 4th round pick.
Kiko Alonso has an awesome name and a game to match. A very instinctive player, who I believe can play SAM in the 4-3 Under (Dan Klausner disagrees). He has great size at (6'3," 238) and has the speed to run with tight ends and running backs. He has the athleticism that Kelly clearly loved enough to recruit him and has the smash mouth style that Eagles fans crave. He will hit you in the mouth and you will not like it. He has an edge to him and plays "mean." Alonso has the ability to rush and blitz and is not afraid to lunge. His burst is obvious on tape and at times, cuts through the offensive line like a knife.
He obviously has his faults with the whole DUI and burglary charges while at Oregon. His ACL history is a red flag as well. He missed the Senior Bowl and Combine to heal a wrist injury (probably a smart decision because he had a very solid Pro Day). There are times in games when you will see him obviously lose balance on stutter steps and play-action. Alonso is an instinctive player but I am not sure he's the smartest football player. He has an injury history but still plays with a reckless abandon that at times makes you cringe. While they play different positions, Alonso needs to adapt his playing style to stay healthy in the NFL, much like Adrian Peterson learned to not run over guys every time he got the ball.
I project him as a 3rd round pick and compare him to Paris Lenon, who was most recently a starter for the Cardinals at inside linebacker from 2010-2012 (played under Billy Davis). I could see Alonso playing SAM for a few years for the Eagles, then move inside when DeMeco Ryans either retires or is cut in a few years.
As always, do not just take my word for it. Take a look at Alonso for yourself:
Now that you know more about Alonso, are you open to drafting him in the middle rounds of draft, if the Eagles pass on a SAM early?