Bears drafted Roquan Smith for matchups like Monday night vs. Seahawks
Long before notching a sack on his first NFL play, and prior to his lengthy holdout and subsequent hamstring injury was preceded by the Bears making him the eighth overall pick, Roquan Smith culminated his Georgia career by dominating the college football playoffs.
And it’s his two most recent starts on a football field that can help us glean how important his skill set is Monday night vs. the Seahawks, when Smith may or may not earn his first NFL start but almost assuredly will play a lot more than veteran placeholder Nick Kwiatkoski.
Smith was named the top defensive player of the Rose Bowl after leading a Bulldogs ‘D’ that limited Heisman trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield to 17 points over the final 50-plus minutes with 11 tackles, including one for loss, and halting Oklahoma’s spread-option attack.
For many, the closest NFL comparison to Mayfield in the pre-draft process was none other than Chicago’s next foe, Russell Wilson. Wilson’s deadliest attribute is his ability to evade trouble in and out the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield and turn a broken play into a back-breaker for the opposition. Go back and watch the tape of Smith against Mayfield and you’ll see an incredible amount of not only speed and sheer force but great discipline and sure tackling. He made plays from — to borrow a LeGere term I love — bench to bench, including several in crunch time.
One week later, Smith upped his game, totaling 13 tackles (2.5 TFL) and a sack against the Alabama QB running tandem of Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, who just might be the next Mayfield. Sure, Georgia would fall victim to Tua’s magic, but not before Smith sacked him on his first play after replacing Hurts. Once again, Smith’s incredible closing speed and ability to stack and shed show up consistently in that game, in which the two dual-threat QBs were neutralized on the ground for the final two-and-a-half quarters.
Will Smith be used to spy Wilson on Monday? Whether it’s Smith or Danny Trevathan, Vic Fangio seems likely to lean on the speed that pair brings to the table that’s simply unmatched by Kwiatkoski, who was chasing Packers tight ends much of last Sunday night. Seattle’s leading receiver in Week 1 was fellow rookie, TE Will Dissly, again an assignment much better suited for Smith than the incumbent in Kwiatkoski.
What else can we apply now from Smith shining so brightly to close his collegiate career? He lives for the big stage. How about the home opener under the NFL’s brightest lights vs. a Super Bowl champion in Wilson? That should do just fine. And the Bears should feel confident their prized young inside linebacker will, too.