Kansas City Chiefs LB Nick Bolton has been one of the most impressive defensive rookies in the league this season. He earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors for the month of October and at one point seemed to be improving on a weekly basis. Recently, however, Bolton has seen his snaps decline to a minimum.
Through the first seven weeks of the 2021 NFL season, Bolton played no fewer than 50 percent of the defensive snaps in a given week. Week 13 against the Denver Broncos marked the third consecutive week where Bolton played in fewer than 25 percent of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps.
The decline in snaps doesn’t have anything to do with Bolton’s performance according to Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo. Instead, it’s a matter of seniority, with players like Anthony Hitchens and Willie Gay Jr. returning to the lineup healthy.
“Yeah, pretty much so,” Spagnuolo said of whether Bolton’s lack of snaps was related to his rookie status. “Listen, I told Nick (Bolton) after the game — when I look at the reps, I get a sheet on Monday of who played what — I’d like to get Nick more reps. We’re going to find a way to do that, Matt (House) and I.”
Bolton filled in at the SAM linebacker spot when Gay was out with a toe injury to start the year. Then, when Anthony Hitchens suffered an elbow injury, Bolton filled in at the MIKE linebacker position.
Right now, the Chiefs are the healthiest they have been all season and they have a lot of defenders who are playing some of their best football. Because of that fact they have more players mixing into the defensive rotation. It’s a good problem to have according to Spagnuolo because it’s going to help keep some of their best players fresh for the stretch run.
“I like the fact that we’ve got a lot of guys playing,” Spagnuolo continued. “Hopefully, we can keep winning games and find our way into the postseason. I think keeping guys fresh is really important, defensively, when you’re heading down that road. More guys playing, means less wear and tear on other guys. We’re doing that everywhere, right? We’re doing it on the D-Line, linebackers, not as much in the secondary, but a little bit. I think that will help.”
How Spagnuolo manages to get Bolton more involved defensively remains to be seen, but it’s good that he’s focused on getting more snaps for the most promising defensive rookie in Kansas City.