Chiefs Rookie LB Nick Bolton on Historic Pace Through 7 Games

Getty Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton.

Rookie linebacker Nick Bolton — a second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs this year — had his second-highest snap total in Week 7 against the Tennessee Titans, and thrived. On 57 total snaps, Bolton recorded 11 tackles, seven stops, and an 87.3 run defense grade, per PFF. This was during a game in which starting linebacker Anthony Hitchens (elbow) was absent from Kansas City’s lineup.

Bolton posted impressive run-defending ability against a Titans team that has running back Derrick Henry, who was the NFL’s rushing leader in 2020 with 2,027 yards and is leading the league once against through seven weeks with 869 yards on the ground this season, according to ESPN. Against the Chiefs, he ran the football 26 times for 86 yards (2.97 yards per carry), which was his second-lowest total of the season, but his lowest since Week 1, per Pro Football Reference.

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“I’m just trying to be the best person for our defense that I can be,” Bolton said during his press conference following Kansas City’s Week 7 loss. “This week, I was playing Mike with Hitch (Hitchens) out, we’re glad to get him back soon. So like I said, it was me doing my part on defense, the defensive line played a hell of a game and the linebackers beside me played great as well, too.”


Nick Bolton: "You just gotta earn wins in this league" | Week 7 Press ConferenceLB Nick Bolton speaks to the media after match up against the Tennessee Titans. Subscribe for more videos! bit.ly/2OuOUnB More Chiefs NFL action! bit.ly/2Moa1VR #KansasCityChiefs #Chiefs #NFL Follow Our Social Media! Website: chiefs.com/ Facebook: facebook.com/KansasCityChiefs Twitter: twitter.com/Chiefs Instagram: instagram.com/chiefs2021-10-24T22:02:30Z

Broadening the scope a bit, Bolton has been one of the lone bright spots on one of the league’s worst defenses. But how good has he really been? Well — he’s on a pace to put himself among some of the all-time best single-season performances for a rookie.


Bolton a Tackling Phenom

To put Bolton’s efforts in the NFL so far into context, it’s best to look at one of the more prominent statistics recorded for a linebacker: tackles. Bolton has 46 solo tackles through seven games, per PFF, which is tied for seventh-most among all defenders in the NFL this season, according to StatMuse. That puts him on pace to finish the season with 111 tackles, which would give him the fourth-highest tackle total for a rookie defender in NFL history, based on StatMuse’s records.

Recording 111 tackles this season would also have Bolton tied with Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, who recorded the same number of tackles during his rookie campaign in 2018. During that season, Leonard played 98% of the team’s defensive snaps, per Pro Football Reference. Bolton through seven games in 2021 has played 73% of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps.

Bolton’s 111 projected tackle total would also blow Kansas City’s rookie franchise record out of the water. The current record is held by defensive back Kevin Ross, who had 98 tackles during his rookie season in 1984, according to Stathead.

Bolton wouldn’t hold the overall franchise record, however. The team record for tackles in a single season is 114 by linebacker Donnie Edwards during the 2000 season. But Bolton would still have the second-most tackles in franchise history if he finished at that tally.


Bolton Chiefs’ Rising Star

With players like Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Tyrann Mathieu, and Chris Jones soaking up the starlight in Kansas City, it’s easy to overlook someone like Nick Bolton, who makes many of his plays in the trenches, unnoticed by those not watching closely. But Bolton is an ascending star in the NFL, whose numbers by the end of the year — if he keeps on his current pace — will put his name along some of the best of the best in the NFL that play the linebacker position.

Though it is uncertain when Hitchens — who suffered an elbow injury in Week 6 against the Washington Football team — will return, as an injury timeline hasn’t been made clear by the Chiefs, but they have also opted to not place him on injured reserve, which would have sidelined him for a minimum of three weeks. Nevertheless, as long as he’s sidelined Bolton will be on the field more often, which will allow more opportunities for Chiefs Kingdom and the rest of the NFL to lay eyes on another one of the second-round studs on Kansas City’s roster from the 2021 class (the other being Creed Humphrey, PFF’s third-highest graded center in the league this season).

That’s a great deal for a Chiefs team in need of young, productive, and most importantly — cheap, talent.

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Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown
1 month ago

Nice to see someone on the Chiefs defense looking to wrap up. Hope he keeps working on his pass coverage so he can get more snaps.

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