Las Vegas Raiders

Raiders New Defensive Leader: LB Nick Kwiatkoski

The Las Vegas Raiders have found the man to commandeer their defense for years to come. Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski reinforced the Silver and Black’s defense in his inaugural season with the team in 2020. Additionally, the former Chicago Bear played at a high level despite a woeful unit around him.

Delayed Start

The Las Vegas Raiders in 2019 were abysmal on the defensive side of the football, and 2020 brought much of the same. Las Vegas’ lopsided spending in recent years hasn’t helped matters and has only hindered the Silver and Black’s defense.

Despite the imbalance in spending, the Raiders made sure to acquire an experienced linebacker from the Chicago Bears in free agency.

Kwiatkoski isn’t per se a household name. Nevertheless, his presence on the field was tangible in the team’s Week 1 victory against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers’ 2019 All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, was held to just 32 rushing yards in the first half. However, once Las Vegas’ new middle linebacker left the game due to injury, McCaffrey gained 65 yards in the second half.

Subsequently, the former West Virginia Mountaineer missed the next three weeks as a result of the pectoral injury.

Related: Raiders 2020 Rewind: Darren Waller is Elite

Returning Strong

Kwiatkoski returned to action in Week 7, when the Raiders traveled to Arrowhead Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Kansas City Chiefs and ‘Ski’ was a pivotal part of the victory in both pass and run defense.

As you can see above, the former Mountaineer has the instincts that all coaches crave. In addition to his stout run defense, Nick did not allow a single reception on six targets against the division rival. After that contest, the Raiders linebacker continued to thrive in multiple aspects. He plays the game with toughness in the middle of the Silver and Black’s defense.

When the opportunity arises; ’44’ knows how to create turnovers in space.

Last but not least, he possesses a more than adequate amount of athleticism to make plays such as the one below.

Moving forward, Las Vegas should be more than pleased with the cost-friendly roster addition.

Kwiatkoski’s the kind of difference-maker the Raiders defense needs

Kwiatkoski is a physical specimen. His presence also ensures that the Raiders are in the right defensive package via radio communication with the coaching staff.

As Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said, Nick is the conductor of the Raiders defensive band. He bears the future potential of a top middle linebacker for the Silver and Black for 2021.

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Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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