Four games into his rookie season, former Missouri Tiger linebacker Nick Bolton took over a starting linebacker job with the Kansas City Chiefs and never looked back. After 12 starts as a rookie, in which he notched 112 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, three passes defended, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, many Chiefs fans entered the offseason hoping the former SEC standout was the answer to a long-term (black)hole in Kansas City’s linebacking corp.
As we’ve geared up for the 2022 season, those hopes and dreams appear closer than ever to becoming a reality. The Chiefs may finally have their new field general in the middle of the defense, finally a replacement for future Chiefs Hall of Famer Derrick Johnson.
Entering just his second year, Nick Bolton has already become the captain of Kansas City’s defense, earning the “green dot” for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, denoting him as the player calling the plays and relaying information from the coaches. For a coaching staff that has traditionally and almost exclusively only trusted experienced veterans with such a responsibility to give this job to a second-year player is a huge deal. It means that they trust him to read and react to offenses and know the entirety of the defensive system, at every level. That is a mind-boggling amount of information to have not only digested but committed to memory, in just 16 months since being one of the team’s second-round draft picks last April.
Bolton will not only lead Kansas City in tackles this season, he has a great chance to lead the entire NFL in the category. In addition and perhaps more importantly, he also has a shot to lead to entire NFL in tackles of loss, as his ability as a downhill, ball-hawking, run-stuffing middle linebacker is virtually unmatched in the NFL (especially as long as Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard remains the team’s Physically Unable to Perform List). If he does that, while also leading the Chiefs to have a top 12 defense (or better), he should be a lock as this team’s defensive MVP.