Chicago Bears: Why Roquan Smith is a 2019 DPOY candidate

Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bears defense is full of stars, but one, in particular, could be the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year.

In 2018, the Chicago Bears led the league in team defense. In fact, they were at or near the top of every major statistical category of consequence.

There was Eddie Jackson who finished the year with six interceptions (two returned for a touchdown) and one fumble recovery also returned for a touchdown. There was also Akiem Hicks who was about as reliable as it came game in and game out, serving as a dominant force on the defensive line. Finally, Khalil Mack seemingly had a direct impact on every game in which he played.

However, there was another player who had a terrific season but maybe didn’t get the same level of attention as the aforementioned. His name is Roquan Smith and for a few reasons, he’s a legitimate preseason candidate for the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY).

In 2018, despite only starting 14 games, he finished with an astounding 121 tackles, 5 sacks, 5 passes defended, and an interception.

What makes that performance even more impressive is that he managed those numbers despite missing a significant amount of the preseason as he was unsigned for a lengthy period. However, he had no trouble assimilating into the defense.

Now consider what he’ll be able to do with a full season and offseason under his belt heading into 2019.

Also, ponder the impact Chuck Pagano’s aggressive scheme will have on his output.

Smith is an incredible athlete who will rack up an insane number of tackles by virtue of his ability to go sideline to sideline. However, he is also very adept at dropping in coverage where he adds to his tackle total.

The expectation is that Smith will continue to put up solid numbers in that regard next year for those reasons. Yet where he could see a sizable uptick in performance is in total sacks and turnovers.

As referenced earlier, Pagano will take an aggressive approach with his defense. That approach could very well put Smith in a position to put up more of the “sexier” stats that a DPOY candidate needs.

A more aggressive approach could find Smith blitzing more which could result in an increase in sacks, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries.

Additionally, just the fact that he has some experience in the league could cause his production to spike.

Smith is not just an athletic but also a very cerebral player who is clearly a student of the game. Having a greater understanding of the defense and where he’s supposed to be should allow him to be in the right place at the right time more often — which leads to turnovers.

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Recently, I outlined a few players that could break out in 2019. As referenced in the piece, it was tough to narrow down the list. While Smith didn’t make that particular list, nevertheless, I can easily see him have the type of season that will put him smack dab in the middle of the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year.