Roquan Smith has something to prove.
Something to prove to himself, something to prove to his team and something to prove to the Chicago Bears faithful.
“I have a lot that I have to live up to, myself, my personal goals and team goals,” Smith said during his video conference call with the media in June.
In order for the Bears to have a successful 2020 season, Smith needs to elevate his game.
Smith is now in his third year in the NFL. The Bears drafted Smith with the eighth overall pick in the 2018, and this was the first time a team used a top-10 selection on a middle linebacker since Luke Kuechly was selected ninth overall by Carolina in 2012.
Before Smith’s selection, the middle linebacker position hadn’t held high value in the draft. Between 2000 and 2017, there had been only six middle linebackers drafted in the top 10 in an NFL draft.
This shows how much an investment that Smith was for the Bears. Chicago saw a sideline-to-sideline, do-it-all, ferocious linebacker prospect, and Smith has produced in his own right on the field in his first two seasons.
To date, Smith has recorded 222 tackles, seven sacks, and two interceptions. This includes missing four games during the 2019 season, one for personal reasons and three with a torn pectoral.
Despite the late-season injury, Smith feels that he is ready to go for the 2020 season.
“I definitely think that I’m 100 percent and I’m excited for where I’m at right now, and I feel like I can do any and everything,” Smith said.
With it being his third year as a part of the defense, Smith will have the familiarity of knowing the playbook. Helping restore continuity for the linebacker position was the reason the Bears brought back fellow linebacker Danny Trevathan.
The Bears had a tough decision in having to choose which free agent linebacker to retain, an aging and experienced Trevathan or the young, emerging Nick Kwiatkoski. Ultimately, Trevathan was brought back, and Kwiatkoski signed a deal with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Even though Smith has produced early on in his career, his youth may have played a factor in the decision. Smith is only 23 years old and has a ton of football still to be played in his career. Trevathan, 30, comes with more miles plenty of experience.
“Having a guy like Danny Trevathan back, man, that’s awesome …,” Smith said. “Having a guy like that to lean on and just a guy to seek advice on is just great and I appreciate that guy a lot.”
Bringing back Trevathan continues to let Smith grow into the defense with hopes that he keeps developing into the linebacker that the Bears hope he can be. Smith said that if he comes out and does everything to the best of his ability, that everything else will take care of itself. He added that playing to his own standards at a relentless approach will put everything on him.
“I have a huge chip on my shoulder,” Smith said. “Really excited. I don’t want much hype going into the year because I know the mindset I plan to do this upcoming season. God willing, if I stay healthy, I definitely feel this will be my best year to date …”
Ideally, Bears fans want to see Smith grab the proverbial brass ring and take control of the defense. But first, we need to see Smith stay healthy, ascend to a leadership role and keep up his play on the field to maximize his potential that the Bears saw in him in 2018.
If Smith can tap into all of this, the 2020 Chicago Bears’ defense will have great success against any and all their opponents.