on June 13, 2013 - 11:25 PM
, updated June 14, 2013 at 10:55 PM
Kiko Alonso can stop sprinting for a little while, now that the Buffalo Bills’ spring practices are over.
Alonso, the rookie linebacker from the University of Oregon, has been the Bills’ man in perpetual motion the past month.
At every turn of the head, Alonso was sprinting into the flat to cover a running back, chasing sideline to sideline or running in stride down the sideline with C.J. Spiller. He got a ton of snaps, and it was obvious the Bills’ coaches put Alonso on a crash course to prepare for a starting inside linebacker job.
Physically, at least, he looked up to the challenge, which was one of the main developments of the Bills’ 13 practices over the past month.
“I love playing football, so it’s great getting a lot of snaps,” said Alonso, after Thursday’s final minicamp workout. “It’s pretty similar to Oregon, where we always ran up-tempo, and it’s the same thing we do here.”
“I think Kiko has done an outstanding job, he really has,” said Bills coach Doug Marrone. “There’s been a little bit of ups and downs, but that’s not a knock on him. That is what happens with young players. I’m extremely excited to see him perform when the pads come on.”
The Bills’ practices featured a lot of no-huddle offense. Plays were run at a much faster pace than in the past.
“We’ve reached our goal as far as teaching the players what our tempo is, how we want to practice,” Marrone said.
Marrone also said he’s happy with the buy-in he received.
“Our goal was to make sure that we build and earn that trust, and in turn, they go ahead and do that to us,” he said. “Really building a relationship, making sure that we’re all part of one team, was important, that there wasn’t any separation. I think we’re able to do that.”
Here are other observations from the four weeks of spring sessions:
• The aggressive defense is ahead of the offense. The Bills’ defense blitzed the least amount in the league last year. Those days are over. The defense sent a myriad of rushes at the quarterbacks.
• Left guard is wide open. Colin Brown, a 6-foot-7, 326-pounder who missed much of last season with a torn hamstring, worked as the starter. Newly signed Doug Legursky, who has more credentials (17 career starts) but a much smaller frame, got some snaps with the starters this week.
• Right tackle likely will be a battle. Incumbent starter Erik Pears, who missed half of last season, was back only part-time the past month. Chris Hairston, who has started 15 games the past two years, figures to push him hard. Hairston sat out most of the spring due to injury. Both are expected to be ready for camp.
• Edge rush jobs are open. Mark Anderson, who needed two surgeries to repair a knee injury that kept him out 11 games last season, was not able to work in team drills. He did individual drills. That gave younger players plenty of snaps.
Jerry Hughes, acquired in the deal that sent Kelvin Sheppard to Indianapolis, looked very quick off the edge. Jamie Blatnick, on Denver’s practice squad last year, and Marcus Dowtin, an undersized former Jet who plays multiple positions, are in the backup mix.
• The first-team defense has yet to assemble. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams is rehabilitating from heel surgery. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin did individual drills, no team drills. Strong-side linebacker Manny Lawson worked with the second team this week. Safety Jairus Byrd has not signed his franchise-tag offer.
• The receiving corps is very young but talented. Robert Woods, the second-round pick, looked promising, as advertised. T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin are blazing fast. Both are smart, too. Da’Rick Rogers is physical and sneaky fast. Fourth-year man Marcus Easley was out with injury most of the spring.
• Rookie safety Duke Williams, the fourth-round pick from Nevada, got some snaps with the starters at free safety Wednesday. Thursday he showed his versatility, working at cornerback. Aaron Williams got most of the starting work in place of Byrd. Williams had an interception all three days this week. Undrafted rookie Nickell Robey of Southern California looked aggressive and confident.
• Rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins, a seventh-round pick, has a stronger leg than last year’s rookie kicker, John Potter. So far, Hopkins didn’t appear as accurate on field goals as Rian Lindell.
• Much more will be learned about the team when it actually practices in pads in the summer. The Bills are off for six weeks. The first training camp practice is July 28.
“I do think that when it comes on and the pads come on and we start playing preseason, I think that’s where people start separating themselves,” Marrone said. “And that’s where the players have to understand that’s where we’re looking for them to make something happen, to make plays. You see it around here a lot – don’t confuse effort with results. Everyone’s trying hard and everyone is doing that, but at the end of the day it’s about making the plays.”