The leap to the NFL comes to each and every rookie in a different way. For some players, the leap seems like an easy progression, in much the way L’Jarius Sneed was a week one contributor a year ago or Trey Smith settling in at right guard this season. For K.C. Chiefs rookie linebacker Nick Bolton, he says things are “slowly coming along” four games into his professional career.
Bolton was the first selection in the 2021 NFL Draft by the Chiefs after the team traded its first-round pick for Orlando Brown Jr. Bolton was a highly-regarded linebacker prospect from Missouri who was known for his instincts, toughness, and tackling, and the Chiefs were excited to add his skill set to a defense that’s being slowly remade in the heart of it all with a fellow second-round investment into Willie Gay Jr a year ago.
Through his first quarter season, Bolton has seen plenty of action—perhaps more than anyone originally anticipated—given the way that teams have played the Chiefs in the early going. Instead of trying to keep up with the Chiefs high-octane attack, some teams have been slowing things down and the Chiefs base defense has been playing more snaps than they typically would. That’s allowed for more linebacker play than a typical season.
Nick Bolton spoke to reporters about making the leap to the pros.
In addiiton, Gay has been injured for the first four weeks of the year, and it’s uncertain as of yet whether or not he will be ready to play on Sunday night against the Buffalo Bills in Week 5. In total, Bolton has been on the field quite a bit. To date, Bolton has played 72 percent of all defensive snaps for the Chiefs through four games, with 25 tackles to show for his efforts.
“It’s slowly coming along,” said Bolton to reporters on Thursday about his progress. “I feel like it’s pretty good from where I’m at right now. Just trying to steadily build on it every single day, trying to get a little bit better. Ultimately trying to help us win.”
When pressed to quantify his growth, Bolton came up with a figure although we’re not quite sure what it means. “On a scale of 1-10, I’m about an 8 right now. Still got some plays out there I feel I can make. Still going forward, trying to progress and get mentally to that point.”
Bolton is learning a lot of lessons in coverage, having allowed 9 of 10 completions thrown his way. It’s a learning process to be sure, especially for something he wasn’t exactly known for at the collegiate level as well. However, Chiefs veterans have been key in helping his parse through the playbook and take what he needs from game film and practice sessions.
“It’s been ups and downs, kind of,” said Bolton about the leap from the college ranks. “Just trying to learn everything. Everything’s not as easy as it is in college or before then. Every week I learn something new. Every single day. Credit to the old guys, Hitch [Anthony Hitchens] and all those guys, for pushing me mentally to get to where they are. They’ve been here for a while and kinda seen a lot, so I’m just trying to get to that point where I’m as comfortable as they are.”