When the Raiders signed linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, it signaled to the fanbase that a change in thought pattern started. With a starting spot assured, the Raiders finally found their young, middle linebacker to lead this defense during their first days in Las Vegas. Although his name may not ring bells or catch copious amounts of attention, Kwiatkoski gives the Raiders exactly what they lack: talent and dependability. Yet, a couple of questions abound, as to whys, when, etc?
What does Kwiatkoski bring to the table?
First, he attacks downhill, not only with aggression but vision. Blessed with the ability to quickly diagnose a play, this will help the Raiders force longer yardage situations. Next, in Chicago, he showed the knack for blitzing and actually getting home. In 2019, Kwiatkoski tallied 3.5 sacks. The Raiders should benefit from a “right place, right time” feel with their new linebacker.
Will he suffer in coverage?
While Tahir Whitehead struggled mightily versus the pass and none of the Raiders’ linebackers excelled, Kwiatkoski initially looks different. In eight starts, he only allowed one touchdown reception and 59.5% completion rate. Granted, the Raiders and the fanbase should not expect the second coming of William Thomas in coverage. Yet, Kwiatkoski’s feel for down and distance should negate any perceived athletic limitations. Plus, the Raiders have employed athletic linebackers that couldn’t blanket a twin bed.
Will the Raiders still attack a linebacker in the draft?
If they are smart, and all indications appear that to be the truth, Mayock will grab a linebacker or two during the draft/UDFA process. Now, they could let Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen slide by. However, the linebacking corps in 2018 resembled a dumpster fire. As a result, the unit needs depth, talent, and awareness. Look for them to snag a ‘backer on Day 2. With three picks in the third round, they possess the capital to make noise.
What does this mean for Vontaze Burfict?
The end. Paul Guenther vouched for Burfict. Against Mayock’s previous statements, the Raiders signed him. After four games and penalties, the NFL sat him down, once again. At this point, the Raiders can’t afford to lose any starters on defense.
Should the fanbase be excited for Kwiatkoski?
If they like no-nonsense, Gruden Grinder-type linebackers, Kwiatkoski fits perfectly. You won’t see a flashy social media presence or soundbytes. If Kwiatkoski builds on what he brought to the Bears in 2019, expect plays versus the run and past.
In essence, Nick Kwiatkoski may not thrill anyone. Yet, the Las Vegas Raiders improved in technique and anticipation.