Roquan Smith has come into his own this season. The eighth overall pick for the Chicago Bears in 2018, the third-year linebacker had the best season of his career in 2020. Smith racked up 109 solo tackles (which was 3rd in the league amongst all linebackers, per Pro Football Focus), four sacks, two interceptions, 18 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery — and that’s before exiting early in the first quarter Week 17.
Smith injured his elbow in the final game of the season against the Green Bay Packers, and he will miss Chicago’s Wild Card contest against the New Orleans Saints as a result. The severity of the injury is still unknown, but after he left last week’s game, the defense clearly missed him, and it had major issues securing the middle of the field.
Smith has also improved significantly in pass coverage, earning an 84 grade from PFF on the season, the highest of his career so far. His play in 2020 has earned him the respect of his coaches, teammates and an adoring fan base, but it still hasn’t garnered him the respect around the league many think he deserves, particularly when it comes to Pro Bowl and All-Pro voting.
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Roquan Smith Has Perfect Response to All-Pro Snub
Smith was overlooked first by Pro Bowl voters, and most recently, by those making the first-team All-Pro selections. Smith made the second team, but a closer look at who made it ahead of him got Bears Twitter riled. When Zack Pearson of 247 Sports’ Bear Report Tweeted out a comparison of Smith’s stats versus the linebackers who received more All-Pro votes than he did, Smith re-Tweeted Pearson, including a message of his own.
“I have never been one to debate opinions but great field performance & stats are earned. Extra fuel for my fire is always appreciated,” Smith Tweeted.
I have never been one to debate opinions but great field performance & stats are earned. Extra fuel for my fire is always appreciated. https://t.co/Au4jGLrANd
— Quan (@RoquanSmith1) January 8, 2021
Not to be outdone, Smith’s inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeon also responded to the snub, re-Tweeting Smith along with a famous gif of Michael Jordan from The Last Dance documentary. It’s looking like Smith took the snub personally, and is going to use it as a motivator, which doesn’t bode well for opposing offenses in 2021.
— Mark DeLeone (@MarkD_FB) January 8, 2021
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Bears Coaches, Players Bothered By Smith’s Snubs
Bears inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone told the Chicago Tribune this after Smith didn’t make the Pro Bowl: “It’s an imperfect science,” DeLeone said. “I feel bad for him because I think he’s played as good as anybody in the league, if not the best this year at that position.”
“I haven’t heard him even bring it up, to be honest with you,” Bears safety Tashaun Gipson told the team’s official website after Smith’s Pro Bowl snub. “That just shows you the type of player that he is, the type of guy that he is, beyond just a players’ type of guy that he is. We’ve been able to see the growth of his game throughout the season, man, and it’s a travesty that he didn’t make it.”
A few Bears players also took to Twitter to express their opinions about the perceived lack of respect being thrown Smith’s way:
@RoquanSmith1 is the BEST LB in the game, and made SECOND team all pro?! Pro bowl is a popularity contest, cool. But this is blasphemous.
— BlackLivesMatter (@allhail_JWoods) January 8, 2021
— Bilal Nichols (@BNichols98) January 8, 2021
If Smith has another season in 2021 similar to the one he had this year, it’ll be near-impossible for him to be overlooked again — won’t it? Time will tell, but one thing is certain: Smith has turned out to be the best first-round pick GM Ryan Pace has had, and it’s only the beginning.