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Smith, Trevathan lead linebacking corps


The following is the seventh of nine position previews in advance of training camp.

The Bears added a key piece to their defense when they spent the eighth pick in this year's draft on Georgia inside linebacker Roquan Smith.

The 6-1, 225-pounder is a speedy and tenacious sideline-to-sideline three-down defender who excels against the run as well as in pass coverage. Last season as a junior Smith was voted first-team All-American, won the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

"What they can expect from me when I arrive is a relentless guy on the field and off the field, going about my business the right way and going to do whatever it takes to put the Bears in the best possible situation every time I step onto the field and on the practice field," Smith said after he was drafted.

Smith helped Georgia reach the CFP national title game last season, starting all 15 games and leading the Bulldogs with 137 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 14.0 tackles-for-loss and 20 quarterback hits. He was named MVP of the SEC Championship Game and Defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl in the CFP semifinal after registering 11 tackles in a win over Oklahoma.

At the NFL Combine, Smith ran a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash, the second fastest time among linebackers.

The Bears are expected to pair Smith with Danny Trevathan. Last season the veteran inside linebacker recorded a team-high 89 tackles along with four tackles-for-loss, two sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He's entering his third year with the Bears after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Broncos.

"We went against Danny when I was in Kansas City and he was at Denver, so we always knew what kind of player he was," said Bears first-year coach Matt Nagy. "He has the demeanor to him, a focus. He's very serious when he's out there on the field and he'll be a great mentor for Roquan."

Trevathan was impressed with Smith while playing alongside the rookie during offseason workouts.

"He's quick, instinctive, learns well," Trevathan said during OTA practices in May. "He's just out here trying to get better. That's what I like about him. He's calling the call sheets out. He's learning the plays. That's what you want in him. You want him to come out here and be humble. You want him to work hard. I see that in his eyes, coming out here. It's a lot of lights on him. It's a lot of attention on him. But he's finding himself out here, coming out here and trying to make some plays."

At outside linebacker, 2016 first-round pick Leonard Floyd returns after recovering from a knee injury that forced him to miss the final six games last season. In 10 contests in 2017, he registered 33 tackles, 4.5 sacks, nine tackles-for-loss and one fumble recovery.

Also back at outside linebacker is veteran Sam Acho, who originally joined the Bears in 2015 after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Cardinals. In three seasons in Chicago, Acho has compiled 140 tackles, four sacks, eight tackles-for-loss, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery while appearing in 47 games with 25 starts.

The Bears bolstered their outside linebacker position during the offseason by signing free agent Aaron Lynch and selecting Kylie Fitts in the sixth round of the draft.

Lynch excelled as a 49ers rookie in 2014 when Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio served in the same capacity in San Francisco, recording six sacks while playing in all 16 games.

Lynch had another productive year in 2015 with 6.5 sacks, but his career has since taken a detour. He was suspended for the first four games in 2016 for violating the NFL policy on substance abuse and was a healthy scratch late last year after missing games with a calf injury.

Fitts spent the past three seasons at Utah. He registered 41 tackles, seven sacks and four forced fumbles while appearing in 13 games with 11 starts in 2015. But the 6-4, 265-pounder was slowed by injuries each of the past two years.

Fitts was lost for the season in the second game in 2016 when he suffered a torn Lisfranc ligament in his foot. He then missed three contests and saw limited time in five others in 2017 due to a sprained ankle and sprained shoulder.

The Bears see Fitts as an outside linebacker who possesses an excellent size, speed, toughness, instincts and character. His traits are evident on his game tape and helped him deliver an impressive performance in drills and tests at the NFL Combine.