Chiefs LB Nick Bolton leads all rookies in tackles through Week 6

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Selected in the second round by the Kansas City Chiefs in April’s draft, many thought Missouri product Nick Bolton could turn the team’s defensive fortunes around after their Super Bowl loss.

While his addition hasn’t changed much in terms of the unit’s performance, he has individually managed to make an outsized impact for the Chiefs so far this season. Bolton has started in every game for Kansas City so far and he now leads all NFL rookies with 40 combined tackles according to Stat Muse. He has nine more combined tackles than the next closest rookie, Las Vegas Raiders CB Nate Hobbs. His 30 unassisted tackles is 10 more than the next closest rookie, New Orleans Saints CB Paulson Adebo.

Bolton is currently pacing for triple digits in the category in the new 17 game schedule. The small sample size may not be indicative of sustained success this year, especially given the defensive ineptitude unfolding around him every week, but Bolton has a chance to make good on high expectations with continued progress.

He will need to get more acclimated to playing his specific role in coverages and identifying play-action specifically, which are both common coaching points for first-year players. Bolton hasn’t yet recorded his first NFL sack but could become a dominating force if defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can find success using him as a disguised blitzer.

Opponents seem comfortable directing their offense towards Bolton in recent matchups, similar to the way they’ve picked on Daniel Sorenson in coverage. Both the rookie linebacker and veteran safety sit atop the team leaderboard in tackles, which would indicate that coordinators are picking them out as players with skillsets they can exploit on Sundays.

Kansas City’s primary deficiency last season was their inability to stop the ground game though, and Bolton has certainly become an intimidating presence in the defensive backfield, sitting alone at the top for the Chiefs with five tackles for loss. His nose for the football when attacking downhill is undeniable and should excite fans who have clamored for better defensive output. Bolton isn’t done developing yet, still improving every week in his effort to help steer Kansas City back on track for another championship as a young budding star.

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