In his four seasons with the Chicago Bears, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski was a backup. Now he is a vital part of the Las Vegas Raiders’ defense.
Kwiatkoski, a fourth-round pick by the Bears in 2016, took advantage of some injuries last season and started eight games, during which he flashed in his role as a starter and the Raiders took notice. They jumped on in him early in free agency, signing Kwiatkoski to a three-year, $21 million deal.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden has said Kwiatkoski will be “the lead singer” of the defense, meaning he will call the plays and wear the green dot on his helmet to allow him to communicate with coaches.
In comments distributed by the Raiders on Monday. Kwiatkoski said he is ready for his increased role, but he won’t be changing his approach.
“The process for me doesn’t change,” he said. “I kind of had that mindset even in Chicago when there was a lot of unknown. Preparing like I’m a starter, preparing like I was going to get reps is something I’ve prided myself on over the last couple of years. That’s something the others around me prided themselves on, so it’s something they taught me.”
Kwiatkoski said his biggest priority in the early portion of training camp – especially since the entire offseason was done virtually — is working on communication with fellow free-agent addition linebacker, Cory Littleton (who is helping him with the calls), and getting used to the entire defense.
“We lost a lot of time in the spring, so right now that’s a big part of what I’m trying to do in the field right now,” Kwiatkoski said. “(It’s) been nice to finally meet people in person, kind of get an understanding of how things are going to work from here on out, and just being on the field. In the Zoom meetings you watch film, it’s nothing like actually like getting on the field and doing things. Working on technique, just making those communications in person rather than Zoom. Just being here, it feels great. It’s been very helpful.”
Kwiatkoski knows how important playing improved defense is for the Raiders this season. He also knows the challenges the unit will have because of the lost on-field time. He is taking a patient approach.
“I would just say make the most of our time,” he said. “We’re finally here. We’re finally together. Just taking each day and getting the most out of it. I felt like we did a very good job during Zoom. Coming in I don’t feel like there were many hiccups. We hit the ground rolling. It’s been a good first week, first couple of days … The biggest thing for me is just communicating. Getting people lined up, making sure we’re on the same page. Like I said before, we did a great job in Spring. Guys were in the playbook. Once we got on the field, it was just a matter of getting things together and everything has been smooth so far.”