After inside linebacker Roquan Smith’s impressive rookie season, Bears general manager Ryan Pace isn’t placing any limits on the talented 2018 first-round draft pick.
“What’s awesome about him is you can’t really put a ceiling on him,” Pace told ChicagoBears.com, “not only because of his physical traits but more importantly his football makeup—like how good a teammate he is, how passionate he is about the game and his football intelligence. When you combine the physical traits with the football makeup, that’s where it’s hard to put a ceiling on this player.”
Selected with the eighth pick in last year’s draft out of Georgia, Smith recorded a sack on his first NFL play in the season opener in Green Bay and ended the year by being named to ESPN.com’s NFL All-Rookie Team.
Smith led the Bears with 121 tackles, three shy of Hall of Fame middle linebacker Brian Urlacher’s team record set in 2000. Smith also registered five sacks, eight tackles-for-loss, one interception and five pass breakups while playing in all 16 games with 15 starts. He added a second interception in the Bears’ wild card playoff loss to the Eagles.
As Smith gained experience and a firmer grasp of the defense, he steadily improved throughout the course of the 2018 season.
“His two best traits are instincts and speed, and you can tell when a player’s getting comfortable just being in the NFL, those things showcase even more,” Pace said. “So as the season progressed, every game you saw him reacting faster and playing faster, and that’s just going to continue.”