Thanks to our being a part of the SB Nation network, we have access to a lot of neat things, one of which is our ability to talk with the college sites that covered the newest members of the Chicago Bears.
In this series of Five Questions With..., we'll try learn a little more about the 2016 rookie class, both the draft picks and also some of the undrafted free agents.
Today we're talking with Matt Kirchner (@MKirchner12), of The Smoking Musket, the SB Nation site that covers the West Virginia Mountaineers. You can follow them on Twitter @SmokingMusket. We asked Andy some questions about Bears' 4th round draft pick, inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski.
Windy City Gridiron - Kwiatkoski was a safety coming out of high school, and he wasn't moved to linebacker until his redshirt sophomore season. Was this because he simply outgrew safety, or was there a plan all along to have up move to LB? Also as an ex-DB, I would assume his coverage skills are above average for a linebacker, would that be accurate?
The Smoking Musket - I think it was a combination of both Nick outgrowing the position and WVU's desperate need to find some good players to plug and play coming off an absolutely disastrous defensive performance in 2012. We needed some solid players out there on defense and Nick fit the bill.
To the second part, that's a definite yes. Kwit was great at dropping back into coverage and while his six career picks in three years of starting isn't the sexiest number, many of them came at opportune times and changed the momentum of the game. He's not going to be a coverage liability at all.
WCG - The Bears will most likely use him as an inside linebacker in their 3-4 front, so being able to disengage from blockers will be something he'll have to do. How was he at WVU at fighting through the wash, scraping and making plays?
TSM - Nick was great at creating pressure through the middle of the offensive line, and a 3-4 MLB (especially in John Fox's system) is really his perfect fit. He wasn't a MLB that was getting all of his tackles 5-7 yards down field. He was at or behind the line of scrimmage on almost every play.
WCG - The Bears just added two veteran ILBs in free agancy, so the odds on Kwiatkoski starting as a rookie are slim. Did he play many special teams at West Virginia?
TSM - I'm going to be completely honest and tell you that I can't remember his special teams play at WVU. What I can tell you is that whatever he has to do to get on the field, he'll do. I can see Nick making at immediate impact as a kick off and punt return gunner as he learns the defense and waits his turn to see the field.
WCG - Bears' fans just suffered through a season watching their primary inside linebackers take false step after, false step, making plays moving backwards. How are Kwiatkowski's instincts?
TSM - Very strong. As I said above, he's not going to be a liability in coverage, and he very rarely misread the play to the point of being out of position in that respect. He's one of those guys that just always seemed to be around the ball and was never going away from the play.
WCG - The Bears have two types of ILBs in the scheme, sometimes they are interchangeable, but one is usually lined up at the Jack and one at the Mike. The Jack is usually the one that will cover or blitz more, he's asked to be a little versatile, and the Mike is thought of as the run plugger. Where do you see Kwiatkoski fitting in with the Bears, and do you think his skill set translates to both spots?
TSM - I think initially he's going to be more of a Mike for you guys. He's not a liability as a pass rusher but his strength is definitely as a run stopper. As he grows, he may be able to situationally blitz a little bit more, but his job at WVU was never to be a pure pass rusher. He's the kind of guy that you're going to want stonewalling a run on third and two, not getting a big sack to force a third and long.
I really think that you're getting a gem in Nick. He was a true leader on this defense, stepping up to lead when Karl Joseph went down with his knee injury. He may not play immediately and he's not always going to have a sexy stat sheet, but he will play and he will be productive linebacker. I look forward to watching him grow in the NFL.
Thanks again to Matt for helping us learn a little about Kwit.