Bears see Roquan Smith ‘on the right track' after limited debut in Green Bay


In any one-point loss — especially in which a team blows a 20-point lead — there are a multitude of things that affect the game’s outcome. For the Bears, following Sunday’s 24-23 loss to the Green Bay Packers, they’re no different. 

Kyle Fuller dropping what would’ve been a game-clinching interception. The Bears not converting a third-and-two in the red zone. Mitch Trubisky sailing a pass over the head of an open Allen Robinson in the first quarter, leading to a field goal instead of a touchdown. Eddie Jackson leaving his feet instead of staying on Randall Cobb’s shoulder, leading to that game-winning 75-yard touchdown. Those are the most noticeable examples. 

Add Roquan Smith only playing eight plays to that list, too. 

It’s hard to argue against the notion that Smith’s four-week holdout during training camp, which was followed by a tight hamstring that sidelined him for all but one and a half preseason practices, impacted the Bears’ loss to the Packers. That Bears coaches only felt comfortable enough in eighth overall pick to play eight plays — and didn’t get him on the field until Danny Trevathan was banged up in the second quarter — was telling. 

“He’s on the right track,” inside linebackers coach Glenn Pires said. “Had a good week last week, had a good start and we’re just gonna build from there.”

Pires said Smith was “great” on the sidelines and played within the scheme when he was on the field. Smith said physically he felt fine during and after the game, and added that mentally he felt prepared, too.

“I knew the game plan going into the game so I felt like I can do that to the best of my ability,” Smith said. “And I pretty much knew everything so it wasn't anything where I was like, 'Oh I don't know what to do in these cases and scenarios.’”

Nick Kwiatkoski didn’t make an impact, and for what it’s worth Pro Football Focus gave him the lowest grade of the 14 Bears defensive players with at least 20 snaps on Sunday. Smith hit home for a sack on his first snap in the NFL, and also notched a run stop on his eight plays. 

The Bears’ defense was always going to be a work in progress early in the season while Smith and Khalil Mack get up to speed. But how much Smith plays on Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks will be one of the more important developments next week — will he start? Will he play the majority of snaps at inside linebacker next to Trevathan? Will Kwiatkoski still be the primary option? 

Pires pointed to Smith’s communication as one of the bigger things that’s going in the right direction for the rookie linebacker. That certainly sounds like a positive sign, and he added that Smith is “in tune with what we’re doing.” 

So how much Smith plays against Seattle will likely be more determined by how ready, conditioning-wise, the Bears feel he is to take on a larger workload. We’ll find out exactly what that will be on Monday night, but the thought here is Smith will be starting sooner rather than later. 

And once he is, the Bears defense will have an opportunity to reach its full potential. 

“I was just really excited to go back out there and play ball,” Smith said. “It wasn't about the holdout or anything. It was just about being here with my guys and my team and whatnot, doing whatever it takes to get a win and be the best ball club we can be.”

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