DAVIE—The phases of Kiko Alonso’s career have been marked as much by the uniform he’s wearing as his ever-changing hairstyles.
When he arrived with the Dolphins last year, he ditched the rugged curls he donned in Buffalo and the flowing locks from his Philadelphia days in favor of something that might be described as a pseudo-pompadour with the sides shaved off. In Miami’s offseason workouts this month, fresh off signing a major contract extension, he turned up with a more close-cropped, businesslike haircut.
“I don’t know what I’m doing with it now,” he said Wednesday. “Right now I’m kinda in the awkward phase. Just trying to figure out my way.”
That qualifies as a big concern for Alonso these days. Everything else seems to be settling nicely into place for him.
He’s no longer an NFL vagabond wondering where he’ll fit next. In one season with Miami, he transformed into what the organization thinks is a pillar of its future. After playing out the upcoming season for the restricted free agent tender of $2.9 million, he stands to make $26.1 million over the following three years.
If Alonso is what the Dolphins believe him to be, they’re likely going to get his best years. He’s 26 and coming off a season in which he led the team with 114 tackles despite playing through injuries. He also had four passes defensed, four fumble recoveries and a game-clinching pick six against San Diego.
It’s hard to pinpoint why this situation has worked out so much better for him than Buffalo or Philadelphia, but any baggage Alonso had seems to have been left in the past. Miami had no hesitation about making a big commitment to him this offseason.
“Since the day he really got here, he’s done everything right,” coach Adam Gase said. “We like the way he plays. We feel like the attitude he brings and that aggressive style, that’s what we want all our guys to do.”
There’s a different feel in Davie than there was this time last year, and Alonso is a big part of it. Last spring, months after Gase was hired, everything was new. The scheme changed on both sides of the ball, and there were just 27 holdovers from the previous season. Alonso came in, along with Byron Maxwell, via a trade with the Eagles in March.
Now it’s all about continuity, even after some modest remodeling on defense. The Dolphins kept their defensive line intact and held on to 8 of 11 starters overall. Their transition from Vance Joseph to Matt Burke at defensive coordinator will bring minimal changes to scheme or terminology, creating an opportunity for returning players like Alonso to lead the newcomers.
“I’m in a position where I can help other guys, guys that just got here,” he said.
That’s particularly helpful at linebacker, where the Dolphins signed 11th-year veteran Lawrence Timmons and drafted Raekwon McMillan in the second round. Both of them should benefit from Alonso’s experience, which is vital at a time when the team is training all of them to play inside and outside.
Miami hasn’t specified where it intends to use those three, all of whom have a background as an inside linebacker. Alonso said this spring he’s amenable to moving outside, and Gase anticipates multiple roles for all three of them. The Dolphins also have Neville Hewitt, who impressed as a backup last year, and veteran Koa Misi vying for playing time.
“Right now we’re just all doing everything,” Alonso said. “They’re not making any decisions yet… but at the end of the day it’s running around and hitting people.”
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