Roquan Smith Becomes More Assertive in Bears Defense

Gene Chamberlain

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Roquan Smith did something historical in the last Bears game.

History aside, Khalil Mack just knows he liked what he heard from Smith in the Thanksgiving Day 24-20 win over Detroit and hopes to hear more against Dallas Thursday.

"He plays with a chip on his shoulder," Mack said. "It's a beautiful thing.

"I heard him talking a little bit last game and I never heard him talk like that before, so he needs to keep doing it."

Normally a bit reserved off the field, Smith got fired up against the Lions. In the process he had 15 tackles and also two sacks. 

Both are career highs, but the historical aspect was evident after the Bears searched through league records. 

Smith joined only Patrick Willis and Vincent Rey as the only NFL linebackers who've had at least 15 tackles and two sacks in a single game since 2001, when they started keeping track of tackles as an official statistic. It had been kept unofficially by teams from 1994 through 2000. Sacks became an official statistic in 1982. 

Mack sees Smith as capable of far more than numbers.

"Like I say, when he plays well, we play well as a defense," Mack said. "It's going to be huge. I'm looking forward to see what he does Thursday."

Smith's season continues to trend upward after it started at the depths when he missed the victory over Minnesota for "personal issues."

He has 51 tackles over the last five games at a time when they needed it with Danny Trevathan sidelined due to an elbow injury.  

The tackling ability has been exhibited before, but he has only sporadically received the call to blitz.

"It's very exciting hearing the call and then knowing I have an opportunity to be able to make a big play," Smith said. "I take a lot of pride in that. It's another opportunity to showcase what I can do. When I have the opportunity, I just try to make the most of it."

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano sent both Trevathan and inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and confused the Lions.

"It made it tough on the back (blocking)," Pagano said. "He didn't know really who to pick up. It's a tough one to get."

Smith seems to be coming out of Trevathan's shadow as a field leader and general of the defense. Pagano has given him more responsibility in this area since Trevathan's injury.

The challenge for Smith this week is more as a run stopper with Ezekiel Elliott coming to Soldier Field. Elliott was averaging 92 yards a carry through his first eight games, but the last four games just 62.3 yards a game. Dallas has lost three of those four games. So the Bears are expecting a return to emphasizing Elliott.

"I look at everything as a personal challenge for myself," Smith said. "But it's also a challenge for the defense. He's a challenge for the league.

"A guy that does the things that he does throughout this league and throughout his career, have a lot of respect for that, so excited for the matchup."