Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Bills positional review: Linebackers
By Mike Rodak
Back in September, we broke down the Buffalo Bills' 53-man roster, position-by-position. Now that the Bills' season has ended, we'll review those grades:
Position: Linebacker (preseason grades)
Kiko Alonso -- 100 percent
Manny Lawson -- 61.7 percent
Arthur Moats -- 25.6 percent
Nigel Bradham -- 24.9 percent
Jamaal Westerman -- 5.3 percent
Marcus Dowtin -- 1.5 percent
Ty Powell -- 1.3 percent
Preseason take: Mike Pettine's defense often calls for more defensive backs than it does linebackers, making depth less of a concern here. Dowtin and Westerman are good special-teams players with experience in Pettine's system, but don't figure to play much, if any, of a role on defense. The Bills really only need two full-time players out of this position, and they have them in Alonso and Lawson. Beyond that, Moats and Bradham are viable insurance options. Grade: B
Postseason review: As expected, Dowtin and Westerman did not play much of a role on defense and were eventually phased out on special teams in favor of Powell. Both Alonso and Lawson stayed healthy as the top two options -- Lawson missed one game with a hamstring injury -- so Moats and Bradham were never thrust into a starting role. The grade, then, seems accurate. Had Alonso or Lawson missed any extended time, it would have been a blow to the defense.
Preseason take: Lawson has played 16 games in each of his last four seasons, making him one of the team's most reliable players from a health standpoint. However, the Bills will need to lean on Alonso a lot this season -- and played all 91 snaps in Sunday's loss -- and that could be a risky move with a rookie, especially one who may have responsibilities to make defensive calls in pressure situations. Grade: B-
Postseason review: The Bills leaned on Alonso for every snap of the season and he held up very well. Were there occasional lapses from the rookie? There were, such as on Bobby Rainey's 80-yard touchdown run in Tampa. Did he start to wear down late in the season? Quite possibly, especially as he was hobbled by a knee injury in the final month of the season. But the Bills got more than what most expected from Alonso, who proved himself reliable. This grade should have been higher.