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Buffalo Bills' D sans Kiko Alonso no longer a strength

On a recent edition of the Around The League Podcast, we debated the notion that the Buffalo Bills' roster had reached the point where it rivaled the New England Patriots' -- with the exception of the quarterback position.

Now that Kiko Alonso -- one of the NFL's most gifted linebackers -- is expected to miss the season, that's an especially shaky proposition.

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Since the end of the 2013 season, the Bills' defense has lost havoc-wreaking coordinator Mike Pettine and three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd in addition to the one linebacker capable of making plays sideline-to-sideline.

Alonso finished third in the NFL in tackles last season while leading his team in tackles for loss. Per NFL Media's Research Department, he joined Brian Cushing as the rookies since 1991 to generate at least 100 tackles, four interceptions and two sacks.

Also dominant in coverage, Alonso finished second to Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.

Alonso's ACL injury is a particularly severe blow because of Jim Schwartz's plans for 2014. The new coordinator's scheme funnels plays to the weakside linebacker, where Alonso was ticketed this season.

In short, he and Byrd were the two difference-making talents in the back-seven of Buffalo's defense last season.

The quarterback will have to carry a heavier load in 2014, which was our chief concern with the Bills all along.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" debates Jay Cutler's ceiling and looks back at the NFL in the '90s.

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