Defensive coaches rave about Nick Squared
|Tuesday, November 12, 2019, 2:22 PM- -|
For the longest time, the Bears have been trying to mix and match their holes on defense, trying to figure out what works. With Akeem Hicks still out with an injury, the defensive line has taken a huge hit as they have struggled to find that same consistency, they had a season ago. However, Nick Williams is starting to insert himself as a name that everyone can count on for that side of the ball.
Not only has he emerged as a pleasant surprise, but Williams leads the team in sacks with six so far this season. If you talk to Defensive Line coach Jay Rodgers, this is something he is not surprised by in the slightest given the work ethic Williams puts in. After playing in 26 games with the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs from 2014-2016, Williams spent the 2017 season out of football. Chicago decided to take a chance on him last year and saw him collect just two tackles in limited action before busting out this year.
“When you look at free agency, when you look at the draft, you’re always looking for players with traits, and the traits he possessed is he had size, he had length, he had power and athleticism,” Rodgers said in an interview with Bears.com. “Those are things you saw when he came in the first time.”
“Now, how do you take those traits and steer them into being a productive player? Well, that happens over time. That happens within the scheme. It happens as they start grinding. What Nick has been able to do is take advantage of opportunity. Even last year, he didn’t have a whole lot of snaps. We weren’t injured at times last year. We were healthy. So, he didn’t get a whole lot of opportunity. He’s getting the opportunity right now, and he’s making the most of it.”
After recording his first NFL sack way back in week 2, Williams has continued to produce at a strong level. That production continued to increase as he has now passed Khalil Mack for the team lead in sacks following a sack of Jeff Driskel on Sunday. Now that Williams has been seeing consistent reps on the line, Rodgers knows that he is just starting to reach his potential as a player.
“You’re talking about a guy who’s been in the league a little bit and hasn’t had a whole lot of games played and then now he’s come into his own,” Rodgers said. “Sometimes playing a position, it just takes time. You must experience failure in a lot of different ways in order to gain success. He’s playing with great energy; great toughness, and he’s getting rewarded through production.”
Speaking of Nick’s, there was another Nick on the field Sunday who played just as vital of a role as Williams. That would be Nick Kwiatkowski who came off the bench to dominate in place of the injured Danny Trevathan. Even though linebacker coach Mark DeLeone hated to see his starter go down, he loved watching what Kwiatkowski did coming off the bench as he lit a spark for the team.
“Danny Trevathan’s an unbelievable person,” DeLeone said. “He’s special. His leadership is special. He’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever coached. So, from that standpoint, you’re always going to miss that. Having said that, I think throughout our defense and throughout our linebacker room, we have really good leaders and we have guys who are tough and play tough, one of those being Nick Kwiatkoski.”
Sunday wasn’t the first time Kwiatkowski was called upon to provide an immediate impact as he filled in for Roquan Smith earlier this season. It was in that game against the Vikings were Kwiatkowski not only filled the shoes of Smith admirably, but led the team in tackles with 10 during the Bears 16-6 win over Minnesota. He also picked up a sack and forced a fumble in that victory.
“He’s a guy who comes into the building every day and prepares, and he’s ready for anything,” DeLeone said. “What’s wild is that he’s done it in two games this year where he’s come in and played great in both. It’s just a credit to him and his preparation and the process that he goes through every week.
“Nick’s a really football-intelligent guy. He gets out there and knows what to do, where to be, and when to be there. And to me, that’s natural more than it is something that’s learned. He’s very comfortable on the field, and he’s just a good player.”
The Bears want Hicks and Trevathan back as soon as possible, but should they continue to miss time, the Nick squared duo should be able to hold the fort down for the foreseeable future. Not comes a big test against the Rams this week as the Bears will look to make it two straight.