Bears confident Roquan Smith will return to form

Second-year LB has not been as impactful since missing the Vikings game for personal reasons. ‘Roquan is going to be fine,’ defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said.

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Bears linebacker Roquan Smith (58, tackling Latavius Murray) had six tackles and a pass break-up against the Saints on Sunday.

Bears linebacker Roquan Smith (58, tackling Latavius Murray) had six tackles and a pass break-up against the Saints on Sunday.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Roquan Smith’s uncharacteristically ordinary play against the Raiders and Saints has sparked concern that the downturn is related to the personal issue that forced Smith to suddenly miss the Vikings game on Sept. 29. 

But Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano allayed those fears, indicating that Smith is working his way out of a slump like many others on the Bears’ defense that allowed 398 yards against the Raiders and 424 against the Saints. 

“Roquan is going to be fine,” Pagano said. “Everybody is worried about 58 [Smith]. I’ve got to worry about me. Fifty-nine [Danny Trevathan] has got to worry about 59. We’ve got to get the whole thing squared away and get everybody on the same page.” 

But while many defensive players have been less productive in the losses to the Raiders and Saints, Smith’s decline is a little more concerning because he seems to have lost the spark and instinct that makes him such a productive player with so much room for growth. 

It’s not so much that Smith looks like a player in a slump that has caused concern, but that he doesn’t look like the same player that has people wondering, “Is something wrong with Roquan?”

Pagano doesn’t think there is.

“No,” Pagano said. “I think this is a tough game. I think everybody has ups and downs. There’s ebbs and flows. You play well, and sometimes you have a rough game. That’s just the National Football League. That’s going to happen.” 

Smith declined an interview request Thursday. He has not spoken to reporters since Oct. 2, when he addressed his absence “because I have to” prior to the Bears departure for London to play the Raiders. 

Bears coach Matt Nagy acknowledged Smith’s diminished impact Wednesday. “He can definitely play better. And he he knows that,” Nagy said. “That’s where we’re at right now. And he’s gonna [play better]. I think he will.” 

Trevathan echoed that sentiment. “Roquan, he’s a dog, man. Once he gets rolling, he’s going to be good,” Trevathan said. “He’s just trying to figure out a bit right now. He’s a guy that can make some plays for us. I know the type of person he is. I’ve been around him a lot. I know that dog. It may not look like it right now, but he’s still out there. He’s still wreaking havoc. He’s just no making the plays as much, as often, as he used [to].” 

Trevathan said it might be related to playing the “Jack” inside linebacker spot instead of his accustomed “Mike” position. But Pagano downplayed the impact of the position switch. 

“Based on formations and shifts and motions, they both [the “Mike” and the “Jack”] have to understand and know the responsibilities,” Pagano said. “Basically, they’ve got the same type of heavy lifting. So they’re not that much different. So I wouldn’t ready too much into that.” 

Smith played 54 of the Bears’ 76 snaps against the Saints (69 percent). That’s the second lowest percentage of defensive snaps since he became a starter in Week 2 last year. In fact, he played 118-of-121 snaps (97.5 percent) in the Bears’ first three games before missing the Vikings game.

“We played a one-linebacker defense [against the Saints],” Pagano said. “It’s a different package.” 

The Bears are being patient with Smith, optimistic he’ll regain his form. But Pagano did not seem to dispute the notion that having Nick Kwiatkoski — who was superb as a replacement for Smith against the Vikings — in reserve raises the standard for Smith. 

“Everybody understands that it’s a bottom-line business,” Pagano said. “Everybody in this building that coaches and plays understands that you have to get the job done. If I don’t get the job done, they move on. It’s as simple as that.” 

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