Willie Gay Jr. and Nick Bolton belong on the field
It hasn't been perfect, but over the last 2 weeks the young LB's have shown what they can provide for the defense.
Willie Gay Jr. is the best linebacker in Kansas City right now.
Nick Bolton is the second best linebacker in Kansas City right now.
At least, that’s an easy conclusion to draw after watching the young LB duo take a larger portion of the snaps over the last 2 weeks. The coaching staff has allowed Bolton and Gay to be the primary linebackers on the field in certain sets (though Ben Niemann has been the dime linebacker and is seeing his fair share as well), and it at least appears the youth movement Chiefs fans have clamored for since the start of the season has begun.
With Hitchens likely returning to action Sunday, either Gay or Bolton (perhaps both) will see their snap counts fall. So today, it feels like a good time to write about why that shouldn’t happen (though it very, very likely will). Because both players have earned the opportunity at more playing time.
This is particularly true of Gay, who has been one of the better defenders on the field this season when healthy and when the coaching staff lets him out there. He’s played with a ferocious physicality that belies the fact that he was drafted as an athletic linebacker thought to be better suited in space.
Bolton has drawn more of accolades and attention than Gay over the last several weeks, being named defensive rookie of the month after being among the league leaders in tackles and tackles for loss. But Gay, a second year player who lost time early this season and last year due to injury, deserves just as much or more attention for the versatility he’s brought.
Let’s talk about what both players have added to the defense in recent weeks, and why it’s earned them an opportunity to be the 2 core linebackers on the team. We’ll start with Bolton, who has been forced into the Mike role (middle linebacker) and the “green dot” player who is making defensive calls despite his status as a rookie, and has managed to already flash a hard-nosed skillset the defense desperately needed.