Alonso, Manuel No Longer Rookies
By Jo E. Prout
The Buffalo Bills’ year of rookies is nearly over, to the dual relief and consternation of the Bills Nation.
Linebacker Kiko Alonso had a great year in Buffalo, playing in 14 games. Going into Miami, Alonso had a bum knee, but may have shaken it off. He’s a keeper. Alonso contributed on the field all season long and is arguably one of the best rookies in the NFL this year.
Alonso is one of the lead tacklers in the NFL, with 137 tackles to date. He also has four interceptions, which show his cover skills.
The Bills did not fare so well with their rookie quarterback, E.J. Manuel. Manuel is the definition of an injury-prone player. He was injured in the preseason, and injured three times more in the regular season. When Manuel did play, he was erratic.
Manuel threw a game-winning last-minute touchdown pass against the Carolina Panthers, and won accolades. After throwing four interceptions against Tampa Bay, Manuel won nothing but criticism. He finished the following game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with an 80-yard drive for a victory, and an injured knee.
“He’s not injury prone,” head coach Doug Marrone said about Manuel this week. “His history has shown that he has never been hurt. He’s gotten hurt here, yes. He reinjured that left knee that he hurt in training camp. When he has been injured, he has done everything he could to come back faster than what was expected, faster than what was possible.”
Marrone, in one quote, illustrated how his own rookie year coaching has been: all over the map. The jury is still out on Marrone and whether or not he functioned well. After all, coaches do not get fired after their first year, but perhaps they ought to be if they cannot get their acts together.
Marrone treated the regular season like preseason by shuffling players in and out of the roster like a man without a plan. Maybe he had a plan he did not share, or implement. If he did have a plan, it’s not working.
The time to reevaluate the team structure is coming sooner than the Bills think. Fans are on the fence about whether Manuel should stay or go, but when two back -up quarterbacks are on the field instead of a promising, but absent, rookie quarterback, the question of injuries needs to be at the forefront of the franchise’s considerations.
Marrone will likely stay, as he may, at this late date, have a team he can put to good use next year. Whoever coaches the Bills will keep Alonso, if they have any sense of a winning game plan.