In an online blog post entitled "Reflections of My Rookie Season," Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith shares his thoughts about playing for coach Matt Nagy, how not winning the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award motivated him and more.
"Our team had a great run this year, but we didn't achieve our ultimate goal of bringing the Lombardi [Trophy] back to Chicago," Smith wrote. "That's tough to do in any division, but we have a great coach that made sure we were ready to play each week. Coach Nagy was ready. He was given his opportunity to lead a team and I could not be more grateful to have him in charge."
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.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace recently told ChicagoBears.com that Smith's potential is immeasurable.
"What's awesome about him is you can't really put a ceiling on him," Pace said, "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.
"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. So as the season progressed, every game you saw him reacting faster and playing faster, and that's just going to continue."
While Smith excelled, Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard—a second-round pick from South Carolina State—was named the NFL defensive rookie of the year.
"It was great hearing my name mentioned among some of the best rookies in the league," Smith wrote. "Would have loved to win DROY, but congrats to Leonard out in Indy who played his [butt] off. It definitely added fuel to my fire!"