The other, recent, big-name addition to the Chicago Bears defense could be lined up to make his NFL debut in prime-time this weekend, but perhaps not for the entire game.
Head Coach Matt Nagy used the term “cautiously optimistic” when discussing Roquan Smith’s ability to play against the Green Bay Packers in the regular season opener this Sunday. And because cautious optimism has been a recurring theme for the Bears since the calendar turned to 2018, it only makes sense for that to continue as we head into the regular season. However, Nagy isn’t sure how much the rookie linebacker could play once he is cleared to do so: “Who knows? It could be the entire game. It could be 10 plays. I don’t have that answer,” Nagy said, via the Tribune. Oh. Uh. Okay, then.
It’s been a while since Smith was a full participant in practice because of a hamstring injury suffered in practice before the team’s scheduled preseason contest against Kansas City, so limited game action is understandable. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing.
Smith’s rookie season isn’t even officially underway, but it’s fair to say it hasn’t gone as smoothly as anyone would have liked. A contract holdout caused him to miss the Bears’ entire training camp in Bourbonnais, as well as the team’s first two preseason games. And while the University of Georgia product has participate in a handful of practices since coming to an agreement in mid-August, a hamstring injury kept him out of the Bears’ final two preseason exhibitions.
Of course, missing out on valuable practice reps and game snaps that could have helped Smith acclimate to NFL speed would have been more problematic if the Bears didn’t have two starting-caliber inside linebackers with Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski holding it down in the middle of the defense. So because the Bears aren’t hurting at that position, this should allow the Bears to ease Smith into the lineup without putting too much on the rookie’s plate. Maybe it’ll be for the best, but, again, that doesn’t mean it’s not a little disappointing.