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Eagles happy with progress of linebacker Alonso

It might be remembered as the "LeSean McCoy trade," but the deal that sent McCoy to Buffalo also brought linebacker Kiko Alonso to Philadelphia.

It might be remembered as the "LeSean McCoy trade," but the deal that sent McCoy to Buffalo also brought linebacker Kiko Alonso to Philadelphia.

The two will meet Sunday when the Bills visit Philadelphia. And there will likely be times when the player the Eagles traded must be tackled by the player the Eagles acquired.

"The fact that I got traded for him has no relevance at all," Alonso said. "It's really that the guy's a great player, we're going to have to be on top of our game, run to the ball and play sound football to stop that guy."

The Bills might not have as easy a time offering praise for Alonso this season. The linebacker missed most of training camp and the preseason with a knee injury. He missed five games this season with a knee injury. And since his return, Alonso has been inconsistent while working his way into a larger role.

He has just 21 tackles in seven games. Other than a highlight-worthy, one-handed interception in the season opener, Alonso has not been involved in any turnovers. He was in coverage on one of New England's touchdowns during the past week.

"I think I did alright," Alonso said of his performance to date. "Obviously, I gave up a touchdown this past week. But that's how the game goes. You give up some plays. You've got to keep grinding, keep getting better."

Alonso played 70 snaps Sunday. That was the most of the season. The coaching staff admitted it was too many.

"We need to balance that out a little bit between him and Mychal in those situations," coach Chip Kelly said. "I think probably we didn't help him a little bit toward the end there because we probably should limit him a little bit with some of the snaps. But I think he's doing what we're asking him to do."

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said Alonso was "gassed" late in the game, and wants more of a 50-50 split for Alonso and Kendricks.

"I think at the very end there, where Kiko had a couple plays where he fell or he was just exhausted, we should have made a switch there," Davis said. "But we are happy with Kiko and Mychal. We have to get some coverage things down technique-wise, but they are good athletes with good football awareness and will play better and better as we go."

Alonso said he did not wear down and was not gassed in the fourth quarter. When asked if his workload will be different going forward, he said that decision is up to the coaches.

Even though the Eagles surrendered their all-time leading rusher, it was seen as a positive that the return was Alonso – a young, cost-controlled player who was one of the NFL's most productive linebackers as a rookie with the Bills in 2013. He missed all of the 2014 with a knee injury, but Alonso appeared to be one of the top young defensive players in the league.

"I was surprised," Alonso said of the trade. "That's honestly the best way to describe it, that I was surprised."

Alonso, who played for Kelly at Oregon, is an ideal fit for the defense. The biggest question when the Eagles acquired him was how he would recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

You didn't know what to expect," Davis said. "When you're dealing with injuries like that - I didn't know, to be honest with you. I just hope that everybody gets up to speed as quick as you can, but when you're coming off an injury like that, everybody's different and every injury is different."

Alonso returned in time for the offseason program, but he had knee problems starting in training camp. Then when he sprained his knee in Week 2, he needed arthroscopic surgery.

When asked about Alonso on Nov. 24, Davis expressed confidence in the linebacker but also admitted that Alonso was not playing at the level he did as a rookie because of the missed practice.

Alonso said he thought he had returned to his pre-injury performance, and he also said the season is going as he anticipated.

"We're glad with where he is now," Davis said Tuesday. "It looks like the injury is in the rearview mirror and now it's about playing within our scheme and making the most of him."

He will always be linked to McCoy because of the trade. Based on the early returns, it would seem the Bills won the player portion of the deal, but the salary cap relief was also a factor. The Eagles need Alonso to progress as they hoped if the trade will be remembered for the player who came and not the player who left.