Is Nick Bolton the Next Great Linebacker?
Jake White @Jakewhite58
On Sunday We saw a few defenders on every play, Justin Reid was everywhere to be found, Of course, Chris Jones was spotted throughout the day. The defense as a whole played very well and made a statement against the Arizona Cardinals. Perhaps the biggest statement might be from one of our younger players, Linebacker Nick Bolton.
Some of us have been accustomed to seeing #32 involved in plays over the last few years, but this year it’s a different player. Tyrann Mathieu left for New Orleans and Nick Bolton changed his number from #54 to #32. I thought the change would take some time to get used to, but on Sunday, there was #32 in every play. When we saw #32 making plays, stopping momentum, and helping his teammates, it took me back to 2019 when Tyrann was doing the same thing.
All the great defenses have been led by a linebacker, Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Patrick Willis, Lawrence Taylor, and our own Derrick Thomas. That’s where the heartbeat is and where teams feed from. If a QB is afraid to throw over the middle, or receivers hear the footsteps, teams will shy away from that part of the field making them more one-dimensional. Bolton can be that guy. He already hits like a truck and has a knack for finding the ball.
Bolton wasn’t a slouch last year, recording 112 tackles. But was held back by incumbent starter Anthony Hichens. Now it’s his show and showed he did. He recorded 10 tackles in the season opener. but was influential throughout the game. His ability to finish is something we’ve been dying for since Derrick Johnson once roamed that part of the field. We saw last year Bolton doesn’t miss tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, Bolton missed 4 tackles all of last year, so when he has a target on you, it is almost guaranteed that the tackle will be made.
Steve Spagnolo tends to lean away from rookies and young players as we saw with Willie Gay, Juan Thornhill, and even Bolton last year. But after Nick started producing you could see that Spags couldn’t afford NOT having him on the field. The biggest sign of respect was that Spags quickly decided to give Bolton the green dot. Essentially making him the Quarterback of the defense. We saw him several times on Sunday make calls on the line and move players to the proper spot and oftentimes in a position that allowed them to make the stop.
That not only shows Bolton’s athleticism but also his leadership. And that leadership is needed with this young core of linebackers, Willie Gay and rookie Leo Chenal. One uber-talented and one violently…violent. While Gay has been in the league a year longer, you can see from his demeanor and personality that he is a fun-loving, excited player, whereas Chenal is this serious, almost manic player. Bolton fits somewhere in between and has the job of leading this group. It’s also his job to take a defense that is usually ranked near the bottom and make it not only functional but also fearsome.
Bolton’s influence stretches beyond the linebacking corps, the L’Jarius Sneed sack we saw Bolton moving several guys and distracting the Cardinals from the lone unblocked man. Sneed was able to run free and sack Kyler Murray with zero resistance. Bolton was also able to shift Jones and company on the line to allow them to bring more pressure. Something that has been lacking from Chiefs teams in the past. If Bolton can lead this group by example and from the front, we can have a perennial Pro-Bowler or All-Pro on our hands for the foreseeable future.