It’s no secret that new Bears head coach Matt Eberflus loves his linebackers. It’s the position group he coached for nine years before becoming the Colts’ defensive coordinator. And it’s one of the positions一 spearheaded by three-time First Team All-Pro Darius Leonard一 that made his defense go in Indianapolis. So Roquan Smith knows the spotlight will shine a little brighter on him with Eberflus at the helm, and he’s excited about it.
“Being able to know that he’s going to put a lot into it and pay attention to it and get the best out of his defensive players week-in and week-out一 I think that’s big knowing that eyes are on you more intensely,” Smith said.
Eberflus declined to compare Smith to his former stud linebacker, Leonard. But he didn’t hesitate to reiterate how important of a role Smith will play in the defense, or to compare him to a couple of other legendary Bears ‘backers.
“Urlacher and Briggs were big components to the great defense that they’ve had here in the past and that’s going to be no different,” Eberflus said. “We’re looking for those same type of guys. We want a pair of guys in there that are really dominant, and we’re going to work towards that. Roquan is in those plans, so we’re excited about where he is.”
Eberflus still isn’t ready to announce Smith’s specific role in the defense, but he’s confident he’ll become a leader on and off the field. Part of that confidence comes from his experience with Smith from when Smith was making the transition from college to the pros.
“I had a chance to spend a whole day with him when he was drafted,” Eberflus said. “He came with the former team I was with, and I spent the whole day with him and I think the world of Roquan Smith, just as a person, his retention rate. We tested him in terms of what he can do memorizing defenses and getting it back to you. He’s done a good job so far. I like the way he moves, he’s quick. He’s athletic. He catches the ball well. That’s an important part of our defense.”
From a big picture standpoint, Eberflus believes Smith can be a player that teammates rally around on the field, regardless of his position. Eberflus envisions him as a positive leader who can inspire his teammates with a “yes we can” attitude.
From his perspective, Smith understands there’s an incredible opportunity in front of him to further develop as a young star in the league.
“Obviously resetting things and starting over fresh, new faces, new regime, so I think it's a great opportunity to be the face of the new regime and doing whatever it takes to make this the best regime in Bears history,” Smith said. “That's my plan.”
Just like Eberflus set expectations for Smith, Smith set high expectations for himself一 all while keeping the team in mind, of course.
“My goal is to be the best linebacker in the league, and best leader I can be for this team,” Smith said. “I think if i do that I'll put us in a great situation of being a very good defense.”