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2013 NFL Rookie Watch: Kiko Alonso emerging as rookie of the year candidate

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The numbers are starting to pile up for Bills rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso, and he could be bringing home hardware at the end of the season.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

As soon as he took the job as the head coach of the  Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly became the hot topic of discussion.

How would his offense translate to the NFL? How much success would he have taking the next step in his career? Would be be able to adapt to the pro game?

But while everyone was speculating over Kelly, not many were asking how his players would translate to the NFL. But like Kelly, a few former Ducks have found success early in their NFL careers.

Oregon is in the spotlight for this week's rookie watch.

Three up, three down

Rising

Kiko Alonso, Linebacker, Buffalo Bills: There's a reason former Oregon linebacker and current Buffalo bills Kiko Alonso was named the NFL's rookie of the month for September. For such a big linebacker, Alonso hasn't had a bit of trouble taking flowing to the football and taking on NFL blockers. He's been every bit as active as he was at Oregon and had four interceptions in Buffalo's first four games. That pace isn't likely to continue, but with his nose for the football, Alonso's big play ability is here to stay.

Kyle Long, Guard, Chicago Bears: Another former Duck showing an edge early in his rookie season is Bears guard Kyle Long. Week 4 wasn't his best showing, but it was also his toughest test of the season. The Detroit Lions have on of the top defensive tackle tandems in the NFL, and Long didn't roll over. It was the end of a solid first month in the big leagues for a player many considered to be a reach when Chicago selected him in the first round.

Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, New Orleans Saints: On Monday Night Football, with the whole football world watching, a star defensive back emerged before our eyes. An often irresponsible freelancer in Texas' secondary during his college days, Kenny Vaccaro has honed his aggressiveness and is using his athleticism to make big plays for New Orleans' defense. He's exactly the type of safety that can change the face of a defense, and the Saints' secondary has already received a noticeable performance bump with the rookie in the fold.

Falling

Mike Glennon, Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Different team, same story for Mike Glennon. Just like he did at North Carolina State, the Buccaneers' rookie quarterback looked uncomfortable in the face of pressure and was terribly inaccurate downfield. It appears he was not ready to be thrown into the fire as early as he was, but Greg Schiano had clearly had enough of Josh Freeman. So Tampa Bay will sink or swim with Glennon, and the early outlook is far from positive.

Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, St. Louis Rams: He was supposed to be the weapon Sam Bradford needed. His size was an issue, but not if he continued to break tackles and show elusiveness in the open field. Unfortunately, early in his Rams' career, first-round pick Tavon Austin hasn't lived up to the billing. He's struggling to get open against physical coverage and not finding much success once the ball is in his hands. In Week 4, he was targeted six times, catching only two passes for six yards.

Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Minnesota Vikings: After he suffered a knee injury during the preseason, it should come as little surprise that Minnesota Vikings' defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd has been slow out of the gate. Floyd picked up a sack in Week 4, which will keep people off his case, but he was essentially non-existent for the remainder of the game. The flashes have been there, but consistency is lacking.

Rookie of the Year

Offense

Giovani Bernard, Running Back, Cincinnati Bengals

As his touches have increased, Bengals running back Giovani Bernard has shown that he is the most talented running back on Cincinnati's roster. And it's not even close. His usage should continue to increase throughout the second half of the season, too. Bernard played 50 snaps to BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 18 in Week 4, which is the type of split that should become typical. If that's the case, Bernard is the odds on favorite to win offensive rookie of the year.

Defense

Kiko Alonso, Linebacker, Buffalo Bills

It's hard to argue with the numbers at this point. Voters will be thrilled with Alonso's interception numbers, and he's sure to rack up the tackles this season. Right now, he's the defensive rookie of the year, even if Star Lotulelei and Sheldon Richardson have had bigger impacts on their respective teams. Unless the defensive tackles star accumulating some sexy numbers to watch Alonso, they could be on the outside looking in. Lotulelei and Richardson are playing the best football of any defensive rookies, but Alonso has better odds at getting the award at this point.

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