The Chicago Bears had an impressive draft. Analysts are handing out A’s and B’s for Ryan Pace’s efforts this weekend in Arlington. It’s an exciting time in Chicago.
There were many holes on the roster to fill, particularly outside linebacker and guard. Pace addressed the guard position, drafting James Daniels out of Iowa. He also drafted Kylie Fitts from Utah, not a top pass rusher in the class but could amount to something. Many thought he would draft a pass rusher in the second round, especially when they traded back into after making a deal with the Patriots. Instead they drafted WR Anthony Miller and continued to stockpile weapons for Mitchell Trubisky.
So with the Bears only taking one player who is projected to plat outside linebacker in the Bears scheme, writers and fans went to the roster and examined who else could play OLB. One guy that stands out is Nick Kwiatkoski.
First off, Kwiatkoski is not going to play OLB full time but could see some snaps there.
Kwiatkoski was drafted in the 4th round in 2016. He led West Virginia in tackles for three straight seasons and was the leader of that defense. Coming into the NFL, his instincts and blitzing ability were his strong suits. There was a lot to like about him and you could see a role in the Bears defense for him.
Vic Fangio has used Kwiatkoski in many designed blitzes in the past two seasons and it has been effective. He has three sacks to show for in his brief career and shows plenty of ability to time up the snap and be effective. While the former Mountaineer may not earn a starting spot, he should be able to carve out a role on this Bears defense.
Fangio does not blitz a lot. He is a more conservative coach and it didn’t seem to be much a problem as the Bears were a top team defense last season. When he did send pressure, you can bet Kwiatkoski was involved frequently.
Kwiatkoski brings speed off the edge and has proven he can make the big play. I think he can step into the role previously held by Christian Jones. Jones, who signed with the Lions this offseason, had the versatility to play inside and outside linebacker. He showed improvement throughout his time in Chicago and many thought the Bears would bring him back. Is Kwiatkoski seen by coaches as a player ready for a bigger role? Possibly and if so, then no need to bring Jones back. There will be plenty of opportunities to get to the QB like the play above this season and Kwiatkoski should have more success.
There were also instances last season when Kwiatkoski found success when dropping into coverage. He has a nose for the football in the run game and in the pass game. While he may not be the fastest player, he can handle dropping to the middle hook. Even though Roquan Smith will be an every down player, Fangio could use Smith off the edge in some instances and in comes Kwiatkoski.
Kwiatkoski could also have a chance to start some games alongside Smith. Danny Trevathan has yet to play a full season with the Bears and has a history of nagging injuries. The sample size we have seen in the past two seasons is not discouraging from Kwiatkoski and would be a solid replacement if Trevathan were to be sidelined.
It’s no secret. Kwiatkoski is not a star but he is serviceable. His instincts matched with his aggression is a good fit for Fangio’s defense. Along with his presence on special teams, Kwiatkoski will have a defined role this season.