Another Great Inside Linebacker.
It should come as no surprise that in this painfully-typical Bears season, a season defined by terrific defensive play and non-professional offensive output, it has been a middle linebacker, the franchise’s most-storied position, that has proven to be the revelation. And Roquan Smith has been nothing short of that in 2020.
There’s a bit of Brian Urlacher in Roquan. His ability to play in space, cover sideline-to-sideline, and track the sport’s best backs in the screen game have been hallmarks of his campaign. This is not just about speed, which Roquan has in abundance. It is about awareness. It is about football intelligence. And Smith displays both weekly.
There’s also a bit of Lance Briggs in 58. Roquan sheds blockers and attacks the line of scrimmage in the run game. (This is something Urlacher struggled with once the Bears changed to Lovie Smith’s system took the big bodies out from in front of him.) If there’s a criticism to be made of his season, it’s that Roquan has several times blown up runs behind the line of scrimmage and failed to finish the play. He finishes those 2-3 plays and his statistics land him as a no-brainer All-Pro in 2020. As it is, he should still be in the discussion for that prize. Per Kevin Fishbain’s Twitter feed from Monday night: “The stop behind the line on Dalvin Cook on the screen was TFL No. 13 for Roquan Smith this season, one behind T.J. Watt and Vince Williams for the NFL lead.”
When reaching out to a scout friend who had to prepare for the Bears this season, I asked him what he saw when looking at Smith on tape. His answer: “He might be the most talented, versatile inside backer in the league right now. And he’s not reached his potential yet.”
Thayer Breaks Him Down.
There are many reasons to be dejected about the Chicago Bears. But even as higher-priced veterans leave this defense in the years to come, there is still a young core that can anchor this unit and keep them near the top of the league. Eddie Jackson. Jaylon Johnson. Eddie Goldman. But no player on this defense will be more important moving forward that Roquan Smith.
Here are two plays from Monday night that showcase Smith’s dominance in 2020. These are not plays the average linebacker can make. These are elite plays by an elite player. These are first-round pick plays.
- First, blowing up a screen to Dalvin Cook.
Here, he does a great job doing just that. pic.twitter.com/HJ91StwVHE
— Lawrence Owen NFL (@Colts_Law) November 17, 2020
- Second, blowing up Cook again, this time to sack Kirk Cousins and destroy a drive.
On the only sack the #Vikings gave up all game (Dalvin Cook just gets demolished by Roquan Smith on a blitz), Adam Thielen put Jaylon Johnson on the ground for the second time in the night pic.twitter.com/pqgWoTfVZ7
— Luke Braun (@LukeBraunNFL) November 18, 2020
A Franchise Defined in Two Sentences.
The Bears don’t have their long-term quarterback on offense. They have him on defense.