The Kansas City Chiefs used to have a player with the nickname of a wild animal. Because of his speed, Tyreek Hill often referred to himself as “Cheetah”.
Now a new beast seems to have emerged in 2022 – although that moniker was suggested by head coach Andy Reid. During his Monday press conference on Nov. 21, Big Red compared linebacker Nick Bolton to a “tiger” on the field, which was also the mascot of his Missouri alma mater.
“He doesn’t talk much — he’s a quiet guy,” Reid explained. “But on the field he puts you where you’re supposed to be and he does it with authority and he plays like crazy. He plays like a goddamn tiger.”
Last year Bolton emerged as a breakout rookie and something of an unsung hero, but in 2022 the sophomore defenseman is emerging as one of the key team leaders in this Kansas City defense.
Week 11 was a perfect example of how impactful Bolton can be. He finished with 14 total tackles, a pass defense, a forced fumble and the crucial interception that came off a tipped ball. It was a standout performance, but it’s the Tiger’s consistency that puts him a step above other linebackers in the league.
This year, Bolton has five double-digit tackle performances with just one game under eight tackles. That brings his season total to 112 combined tackles with 11 losses. Against the run, the rising star has allowed an average tackle depth of 3.4 yards, which Pro Football Focus ranks 19th in the NFL (at least 50% of snaps played).
If you’re a fan of sheet music, Bolton ranks ninth in his position with 78.7 of PFF overall. He is also the youngest linebacker to find himself in the top 10.
Reid credited Bolton’s maturity to former team leader Anthony Hitchens. “Hitch is one of those guys who helped Bolton just because he was a pro on and off the field,” the Chiefs HC told reporters. “Bolton has just been carried [Hitchens’ preparation] one step up, he prepares like crazy.”
At just 22 years old, Bolton’s rise is not only impressive to watch, it’s really exciting. Wearing Tyrann Mathieu’s old number 32 jersey, the MIKE supporter should be the focus of this unit for years to come.
Media representatives also asked Reid about the prospects of Lucas Niang, whose 21-day training window ends this week. If the Chiefs don’t move the blocker to the active roster, they will be forced to place him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.
The good news is that based on Reid’s answer, that seems highly unlikely.
“We’re going to talk about it and just see where we’re at with that,” Reid began. “He’s made some nice progress over the past few weeks and I’m not telling you he’d be the starter but I think he’s ready to probably move on to the depths.”
Folks, if we’re even talking about Niang’s potential, it’s a great sign that the O tackle will activate this week – and the Chiefs could certainly use it with Andrew Wylie and Orlando Brown Jr. fighting. As always, we’ll keep you updated on any roster changes that might occur ahead of Kansas City’s upcoming matchup against the Los Angeles Rams.