The K.C. Chiefs‘ defense has been astonishing over the last couple of months. They haven’t allowed a team to score 20+ points on them through their five-game win streak. The defensive line has revitalized themselves, with Chris Jones moving back inside and Frank Clark contributing to pressure opposing QBs. Even Daniel Sorensen is making plays and appears to have fortified his skill set as of late.
One player has slacked in playing time during the Chiefs’ win streak: rookie linebacker Nick Bolton.
Over the Chiefs’ past five games, Bolton has played a significant amount of snaps in a single game, and that was against the Giants in Week 8 (72%, or 42 defensive snaps). Since then, he has played in 43%, 35%, 28%, and 29% of snaps through Weeks 9-13, respectively. Bolton still leads all rookies in tackles for a loss (11), leads the league in TFLs for loss or no gain with Micah Parsons (17), and was the October 2021 Rookie of the Month.
With the defense’s emergence, Nick Bolton deserves more playing time. Before we get into why he deserves more reps, we first have to understand why his playing time has slacked as of the past few weeks:
Hitchens’s Return And A Clutch Trade
After Anthony Hitchens was battling a nerve injury in Weeks 7-8, Nick Bolton was asked to take place in his stead. To say Bolton played his part is subtle to what he provided. In those two weeks combined, Bolton had 26 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, a QB hit, a pressure, and took down Derrick Henry at his upper body:
That’s quite a feat to accomplish, especially with Henry’s well-known brute force and unwillingness to go down after contact. Once Week 9 came along, Hitchens was moved back as the MLB, and Bolton was placed back as the WLB (weak-side LB). Bolton snaps decreased; however, it wasn’t until the Chiefs snagged a player off the trade block before the trade deadline ended that his snaps truly took a hit.
When the Chiefs traded for Melvin Ingram, he bolstered the Chiefs’ pass rush with power and speed. Ingram has seen more playing time over the past few weeks, and he has earned the starter role, starting on Sunday against the Broncos. While Ingram hasn’t been making many moves on the stat sheet, he has been able to open up the pass rush and let players like Jones and Clark shine brighter. Ingram has been good, too; he forced four pressures last week against the Broncos and split a sack with LB Willie Gay Jr.
Ingram has had 66% and 53% of snaps in Weeks 11 & 13, respectively. Bolton’s snaps are 28% and 29% in those weeks, too. While Ingram has been a good find for the Chiefs…
Nick Bolton Has Earned His Playing Time On The Field
Bolton has been one of the best pure tacklers in the NFL. He’s a tackling machine, as shown from Week 7 and Week 8, where he had 15 and 11 tackles, respectively. Bolton can get into the backfield quickly with his good quickness and speed and flies toward the ball carrier with ease. He can plug up gaps when schemed to do so and has been an enormous help in the Chiefs’ run defense.
Yes, his coverage ability, whether man or zone coverage, has raised many concerns among the Chiefs’ faithful. While that’s fair, and I understand where fans are coming from, his tackling prowess and abilities to fly to the backfield or the line of scrimmage are on the verge of being elite. I feel as though that cancels out what he lacks in coverage skills. And let’s not act like he’s a complete liability either. In his last four games, he has allowed only four catches for 38 yards; and, he hasn’t allowed a passing touchdown this season.
Bolton has played his part and deserves more playing time than he is getting. Only playing him in 29% of snaps last week is a crime. I’m glad this Chiefs’ defense has stepped up as it has, and if Bolton gets more reps next week, I feel as though it would make them only more potent.
Do you believe Nick Bolton deserves more playing time? Leave a comment down below to join the discussion. Thanks for reading, and have a fantastic day!