Chicago Bears: 3 Potential defensive breakout candidates

Chicago Bears (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Bears, Roquan Smith
Chicago Bears (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

Roquan Smith is primed for a breakout season in this Chicago Bears defense

The Chicago Bears drafted Roquan Smith eighth overall in 2018. He was supposed to be a lock as an elite talent but has yet to reach that echelon. After a very solid rookie season, some think Smith took a step back in 2019. Even if that’s the case, he seems to not get the respect he deserves.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) recently ranked all 32 linebacking groups (not counting OLB EDGE rushers) and the Bears came in at 21. Depth was a concern, but it seemed that PFF has it out for Smith. They do not trust him to even reach his 2018 production, but they seem to be okay with Leighton Vander Esch who was part of the second overall group on PFF’s rankings. Seems fair does it not?

In his rookie campaign, Smith played in all 16 games and started 14. He finished the year with 121 combined tackles (89 solos and 32 assists). He also finished with an interception and five sacks. He followed up 2018 with 101 combined tackles (66 solos and 35 assists) in 12 games. He missed four games due to personal reasons and a pectoral injury late in the year that put him on injured reserve.

Here’s the thing, if we look at his advanced stats, Smith did not fall off in 2019 like many thought. In fact, his missed tackle rate dropped from 9.7 percent in 2018 to only 3.8 percent. His coverage skills improved as he only allowed a 75.9 quarterback rating after giving up a 95.9 quarterback rating his rookie year. His pressures dropped from nine to four, but in all fairness he played two less games.

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This is a big year for Smith. Many think the Bears missed in the first round again as linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Darius Leonard have been more recognized. Maybe we need to revisit this in a similar fashion to the Mitchell Trubisky comparisons.