Expectations are already high for Roquan Smith since he was traded from the Chicago Bears to the Baltimore Ravens. The dynamic inside linebacker is being counted on to bring elite playmaking talent to a defense failing to reach the high standards of a franchise usually defined by excellence on that side of the ball.
Those expectations are shared by two Hall of Fame defensive backs who each won a Super Bowl with the Ravens. Both have lauded the team’s new arrival as a “playmaker” and someone who can “cause havoc.”
Not everybody is convinced though. A respected film analyst doesn’t believe Smith is a bona fide playmaker equal to an All-Pro for the San Francisco 49ers.
Hall of Famers Talk Up Smith’s Impact
Rod Woodson thinks the Ravens were right to give up second- and fifth-round draft picks, along with veteran A.J. Klein, to get Smith. Woodson, who converted to safety and lifted the Lombardi Trophy as a key member of the Ravens’ legendary 2000 defense, told The 33rd Team Smith will be “a great tool and asset for Patrick Queen.”
The Smith and Queen double act will give the Ravens the sideline-to-sideline playmakers Woodson believes this season’s defense has been missing at the linebacker level. This “great pickup” will also “help the Ravens start taking control of the AFC North,” according to Woodson.
That’s a lofty prediction, but it’s shared by Ed Reed. The all-world free safety who helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII, shares Woodson’s belief Smith is “a playmaker, a force on defense,” per an interview also given to The 33rd Team:
Reed also thinks Smith will be “a leader in the locker room” and somebody who could push the Ravens “over the hump in the playoffs.”
That’s another lofty expectation and it’s easy to wonder if Reed is thinking about Ray Lewis, the dominant and inspirational middle linebacker he lined up behind for all of his 11 years in Baltimore.
Smith isn’t quite the force Lewis was in his prime, but the ex-Bears standout will expand what the Ravens can do on defense this season. The 25-year-old is leading the league in tackles and has also logged 2.5 sacks, intercepted two passes and broken up three more.
Those numbers are proof of an every-down linebacker who can impact both phases of an offense. Yet the stats aren’t enough to convince one prominent analyst Smith is a marquee player at his position.
Film Guru Says Smith Isn’t an “Impact” Player
Cosell, who also serves as a senior producer for NFL Films, says that “based on tape” Smith can’t equal the talents of 49ers’ star Warner. It’s a reasonable argument, but context is king.
Smith hasn’t been surrounded by as much talent as Warner. The latter has benefited from playing behind some awesome defensive lines with the Niners. Players like rush end Nick Bosa and tackle Arik Armstead have made Warner’s job easier.
Barring the 2018 season, when he had Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks in front of him, Smith has often been stuck on talent-shy and struggling teams in Chicago. He’s also not had the luxury of a partner in middle as good as Warner’s fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw.
The Ravens can hope to make things easier on Smith by putting him alongside Queen and surrounding the duo with Justin Houston, Odafe Oweh, Calais Campbell and Travis Jones. A front seven as loaded as Baltimore’s should let a linebacker with Smith’s athleticism and range enjoy the freedom to feast on offenses and live up to the billing given him by Woodson and Reed.