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Nick Bolton Feeling ‘Thousand Times Better’ Entering Second Training Camp

Following a standout rookie campaign, Bolton is fully focused heading into year two.

A year ago, Nick Bolton was yet another Kansas City Chiefs second-round linebacker looking to navigate his way through the offseason and a trying rookie season in Steve Spagnuolo's defense. Now, he's coming off a stellar debut campaign and has his eyes set on leveling up in year two.

In 2021, the Chiefs' Mack Lee Hill Rookie of the Year Award winner recorded 112 combined tackles, three passes broken up and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in 16 games. Starting 12 contests, Bolton emerged as a major contributor at the MIKE linebacker position when Anthony Hitchens missed time and still managed to make an impact even when the veteran was back in the lineup. With Hitchens now on the free agent market, the group is Bolton's to lead alongside Willie Gay Jr. (a 2020 second-round pick). On Monday, Bolton spoke about his mindset and approach heading into his second camp. His tone was quite positive: 

“I feel a thousand times better going into this training camp," Bolton said. "Again, I got all OTAs, a second OTAs underneath my belt and kind of got the scheme kind of settled in and so I’m excited for what we got going forward, feel very comfortable again. You know I’m just excited to get out there, I’m ready to get out there and showcase everything I’ve been doing."

Back in June, following Kansas City's completion of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), head coach Andy Reid used the word "productive" to describe the performance of his two young linebackers. Reid also addressed Bolton's individual growth, pointing to pass coverage as a prime area for expected improvement. Considering that elements such as zone coverage depth and man-to-man ability were question marks for Bolton heading into the draft last year, this made perfect sense. Of the things Bolton wants to showcase, a better ability to hold his own when dropping into the middle of the field is likely one of them.  

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Many first-year players don't experience near-instant success in the NFL. It often takes a bit of time — weeks, months, even a year or two (or three) — for them to settle in and have the game slow down a bit. Things slowed down quickly for Bolton in 2021, and he thrived on the field. The Chiefs also thrived for the most part, although they fell short of their team goal to win the Super Bowl and had to settle for an AFC Championship Game appearance instead. When asked about his goals for 2022, Bolton admitted that he had only one specific milestone in mind that many of his teammates share: win the big one. 

"I got one goal, win a Super Bowl," Bolton said. "We fell short last year and so in order for me to feel like I had a successful season (we) got to get back to where we were last year and execute in that game. We got the chance to play in the next game but that starts when we get there today just going to continue to work on it all the way until we get down to the season. So, win a Super Bowl I feel like that’s my main goal and that’s what I’m focused on so I can get our team there and our defense can play great team defense, I’ll be happy where I’m at."