A former Bears LB is going to his first Pro Bowl
The Chicago Bears needed picks and offensive weapons more than a weakside linebacker without an agent who wants at least $20 million a year. The Bears opted to make a trade midseason before one of their best players on an awful roster was due up for a new contract. The NFL announced Wednesday night that former Bears linebacker, Roquan Smith, had finally been awarded his first Pro Bowl.
Smith, who recently took a shot at Bears general manager Ryan Poles, had previously earned two second-team All-Pro honors. But he had never been named to the Pro Bowl in a stacked NFC linebacker class. Smith, who now plays for the Baltimore Ravens, was named to the AFC Pro Bowl.
The Bears shouldn’t miss this Pro Bowler
The former Bears linebacker has played well since he was traded to the Ravens. He’s made 45 total tackles and five tackles for loss in his first six games with Baltimore at middle linebacker. Smith has recorded two sacks and made one interception with his new team.
However, the Bears shouldn’t feel shortchanged, nor should Smith after the trade. Bears head coach Matt Eberflus made it clear he saw Smith as a weakside linebacker. That’s a position that Smith didn’t appreciate in the Bears’ new defensive scheme. Since Smith left Chicago, the Bears have seen solid production from a new linebacker.
Undrafted rookie free agent Jack Sanborn is one linebacker that evidently seems to have fit the middle linebacker role for the Bears better than Smith. At least according to Eberflus’ and defensive coordinator Alan Williams’ depth chart. (Unfortunately, Sanborn is done for the season with an ankle injury.)
Sanborn has made 59 total tackles, five tackles for loss, and two sacks since Smith left the Bears. His ball production hasn’t been great; he has no interceptions and just one fumble recovery to his credit. Sanborn also needs to improve on his pass coverage skills, although he is showing signs of improvement there.
The Bears’ replacement for Smith at weakside linebacker has been Nicholas Morrow, who had been playing middle linebacker before Smith was traded. He’s graded by Pro Football Focus about the same in the past six weeks as what Smith had been in Williams’ scheme this season. (The past two games have seen high grades for Morrow, showing that he’s improving in that new role.)
Smith has been graded significantly higher by PFF (80.3), with the Ravens at middle linebacker. He was rated at a lowly 51.4 with the Bears this season. How much of that is on Smith or the Bears coaching staff will be seen in future years. Poles and the coaching staff have made questionable decisions with personnel this season, specifically with the offensive line and Teven Jenkins. Not great with a general manager who was a former offensive lineman. But at least the former Bears weakside linebacker won’t be a $20 million question mark in Chicago next season.
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