Roquan Smith emerged as not only one of the best players on the Bears defense last season, but as one of the best linebackers in the NFL. His 139 tackles ranked seventh overall in the league, and his four sacks ranked second among all players in the top-10 for tackles. But Smith wasn’t just great bringing ball carriers down, he was great in coverage too. His seven passes defended also ranked second among the top-10 tacklers.
Despite all of that, Smith was snubbed for a First-Team All-Pro honor. He didn’t even make the Pro Bowl. But now, NFL.com is giving Smith his due, naming him one of their Top-25 players under 25 years old.
“The Bucs' Devin White was also considered for this spot, but Smith wins out because he was more effective in coverage than the darling defender of the 2020 postseason,” Nick Shook wrote for NFL.com. “Smith set career-high marks in tackles and tackles for loss in 2020, joining White as the only two players with 125 or more tackles and four or more sacks last season. The difference between the two players is in Smith's larger body of work and his stellar coverage numbers, which landed among the league's best.”
Matt Nagy sang Smith’s praises earlier this offseason as he was the lone incumbent defensive starter to report to OTAs.
“The way that he has grown into the player and person, to me it's just, it's super special,” Nagy said. They don't make many players like Roquan Smith, I'll just tell you that right now. They just don't. And we are so lucky to have him as one of the main leaders of this defense. And for him to come in here and just, every day, do his thing and just run around, fly around, help teach these younger guys that's really neat. And so we appreciate that. He knows that.
Smith is 24 years old, and turns 25 next April, so this will be his last opportunity to make this list.