After their second Super Bowl victory in four years, the Kansas City Chiefs remain the team to beat in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Andy Reid are still walking through that door which makes the Chiefs one of the most formidable teams in the league. That is not to say that the team, on the whole, is beyond reproach. The defense is still reasonably young, and they will be tested again in 2023.
The Cincinnati Bengals are still super salty and have had all off-season to stew over the "L" Patrick Mahomes handed them on one leg in the AFC title game. The Buffalo Bills are still incredibly talented despite WR Stefon Diggs’ mini-episode during the off-season The Philadelphia Eagles are still a force to be reckoned with in the NFC, especially after picking arguably the most talented player in this past draft in DE Jalen Carter. These are all teams KC will have to play in 2023, and the defense must be ready if they want to compete.
Let's look at some of the questions this Chiefs defense must answer in 2023.
Will Nick Bolton improve as an every-down linebacker?
Nick Bolton has had about as strong of a start to his career as any Chief in recent memory. He had 112 total tackles as a rookie and was named to the All-Rookie team in his first year. Bolton increased his tackles to 180 in '22 which was good for second in the league. He also added two sacks and two interceptions to go along with it. The most significant moment in his career is one of the biggest defensive plays, not only in the Chiefs' history but in the history of the Super Bowl.
Bolton is a tackling machine and an absolute menace in the run game. The issue with Bolton’s skill set, however, is in the passing game. He has improved since his rookie season but also has quite a bit to improve upon, as he is still a bit of a liability in pass coverage.
The issue here is that Bolton is almost always on the field. The Chiefs seemed to have addressed this issue by signing Drue Tranquill to allow for better depth in their linebacker corps. Tranquill joins Willie Gay Jr. and breakout candidate Leo Chenal to potentially let Bolton get a well-deserved break or two in obvious passing downs.
It is not yet apparent what defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will do with his talented group of linebackers. It may not be an issue that Bolton is not the best coverage linebacker and can rotate Tranquill in on third-down spots. But if Bolton wants to take that next step in his development, improving his pass coverage has got to be priority number one.