The past five games have ascended Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith to a new level he has not hit before
Four weeks ago I wrote that Roquan Smith was coming off of the best game of his short career. However, for a top ten pick, this was the level that Smith was expected to play on at a consistent level rather than in flashes. That was after the Carolina Panthers game. In the ensuing games against the Rams, Saints, Titans, and Vikings, Smith has not only continued that play but provided more for the Chicago Bears.
PFF graded the Panthers as the best game of his career until he played against the Titans. On Monday Night Football, Smith recorded a career-high in run stops against a Dalvin Cook, a game that introduced him to a national audience and bumped him into the tier with elite linebackers.
One of the knocks on Roquan Smith was how many plays he could make downhill against the run, or whether he was just a good sideline to sideline player. Smith has exceeded expectations, and after his career-high game Monday, he now leads the NFL in run stops according to PFF.
It is fair to note that Smith waited later than many to have his bye week. Still, Smith has 28 run stops. Below you can see how many some of the other linebackers regarded in the elite territory have.
Fred Warner -21
Myles Jack – 20
Lavonte David – 18
Bobby Wagner – 16
Deion Jones – 16
Darius Leonard – 12
Of that group, only Myles Jack has a higher run stop rate. It is worth noting that Leonard, Wagner, and Jack have a better tackle percentage, but the rest also miss tackles at a higher rate. No matter how you slice it, Smith is a top-five linebacker right now against the run.
Roquan Smith leads the NFL in yards allowed per target as well. Allowing 3.6 yards per target, you can see how he compares to these other linebackers below.
Lavonte David – 4.6 (3rd)
Fred Warner -4.8 (5th)
Deion Jones – 4.8 (5th)
Myles Jack – 5.8 (12th)
Darius Leonard – 6.5 (18th)
EricKendricks -6.8 (25th)
Bobby Wagner – 8.3 (37th)
You can see that David, Warner, and Jones are elite in coverage, but Roquan Smith has been absolutely shut down. That comes from his ability to stuff yards after the catch.
He is 11th in the NFL allowing yards after the catch per reception with 4.6. Kendricks and Warner also allow just 4.6 yards after the catch per reception.
When looking at yards per snap, Smith ranks fourth with Jones and Warner just slightly ahead of him.
Debating among the elite
As you start to look at each category you realize that Smith has comparable numbers to every linebacker that is considered elite. Coming into his third season Chicago Bears fans were not exactly sure how the season was going to go for Roquan Smith. Through the first five weeks Smith showed some ups, but enough downs to where he was inconsistent.
Over the past five weeks, Smith has been everything that you would expect from an elite NFL player. Now that he has flashed this over a prolonged period, the expectations have been set for what type of player he will be, and that is best in the NFL.