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Roquan Smith driven to keep improving his game

Roquan Smith

Since being selected by the Bears with the eighth pick in the first round of the 2018 draft, Roquan Smith has established himself as one of the NFL's best linebackers.

The Georgia product has recorded at least 100 tackles in each of his first four seasons and was named second-team All-Pro each of the last two years. Yet despite his impressive résumé, Smith remains driven to get better.

"There's always room for improvement, and I think it's just not being complacent and being able to work on and rep different things," Smith said Wednesday during minicamp.

"Say if my pass coverage is good, there are still little things I can get better at. My block protection, learning different new techniques with that. It's just a combination of a lot of things: reading, route recognition. There's a variety of things that I can get better at, and I can continually improve at throughout this camp."

Smith told reporters that winning games is much more important to him than compiling impressive individual stats. But he did share his main personal objective.

"My goal is to be the best linebacker in the league and the best leader I can be for this team," he said. "I think if I do that, I'll put us in a great situation of being a very good defense."

After thriving in 3-4 schemes coordinated by Vic Fangio (2018), Chuck Pagano (2019-20) and Sean Desai (2021), Smith is excited about transitioning to a 4-3 system under new coach Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams.

"I think it'll be great," Smith said. "More opportunities to make some plays, so I think that'll be big, even though I was making plays before. It's just going to be sweet and everybody just running to the ball.

"It's just more so about everyone having fun, not just me having fun and having a breakthrough season. I know what I can do. Everyone, if they watch the game, knows what I can do. Things don't change overnight."

“There is always room for improvement, and I think it’s just not being complacent and being able to work on different things.” Bears LB Roquan Smith

Back in 2018 when Eberflus was in his first season as Colts defensive coordinator, Smith made a positive first impression during a pre-draft visit to Indianapolis.

"I had a chance to spend a whole day with him … and I think the world of Roquan Smith, just as a person, his retention rate," Eberflus said. "We tested him in terms of what he can do memorizing defenses and getting it back to you."

Eberflus has been just as impressed with Smith since becoming Bears coach.

"He's done a good job so far," Eberflus said. "I like the way he moves. He's quick. He's athletic. He catches the ball well. That's an important part of our defense. I like where he is. We'll figure out where he fits, what his skill set can do, how he is covering backs, how he is covering tight ends. We've only had 12 reps now of 11-on-11 (all in Wednesday's practice), so it's still early in the game."

Eberflus is also stoked about what he's witnessed from Smith as a team leader.

"I've seen his leadership in the walkthroughs, in the weight room, what he's done throughout the whole process here," Eberflus said. "He's making the calls and making the adjustments. He's a very positive and upbeat person, and that's the way he's been the whole time, and we expect that from him.

"I always say this to the guys, that you are a, 'yes we can,' type of guy. That means when they look at you, they say, 'yes, we can,' and that's what he does. That's the kind of guy he is and that's the kind of attitude he exudes."

Smith, who is entering the final year of his contract, told reporters that he "absolutely" plans to remain with the Bears long term. He's especially excited to lead the new defense.

"That's a heck of an opportunity to have," Smith said. "Resetting things and starting over fresh, it's a great opportunity to be the face of the new regime. And doing whatever it takes to make this the best regime in Bears history, that's my plan."

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