The linebacker position has been the most talked about position for the Chicago Bears this season for a magnitude of reasons. Controversy at the linebacker position started all the way back during training camp in August when Roquan Smith, the next building block of Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defense, was expected to sign a major contract extension. However, the deal was never finished, and contract negotiations quickly turned south. Instead of Bears fans seeing Smith’s new contract on the news, to their unpleasant surprise, it was reported that Smith had requested a trade. Smith’s trade request was the spark that ignited the fire between him and new general manager Ryan Poles. Smith eventually suited up for the Bears on week one and even recorded a game winning pick-six against the Texans, but Smith didn’t seem to hold the same spirit and energy he did in his previous years in Chicago. On Halloween Smith was dealt to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for a 2023 2nd and 5th round pick.
The fourth year linebacker’s departure was a huge blow for the Bears defense, but it also demonstrated a new era for this football team under Eberflus and Poles. Many Bears fans expected Nicholas Morrow or Matt Adams to take on the starting role as middle linebacker. However, one Bears rookie took the stage right in front of our eyes at the linebacker position. The Wisconsin Badger Alum and Illinois Native Jack Sanborn is the rookie who has stolen the spotlight on the Bears’ defense.
Sanborn played outstanding in the pre-season, but as an undrafted rookie, he found little playing time during the first half of the season. That has changed since Sanborn earned his first career start against the Miami Dolphins in week nine. In just six starts this season, Sanborn has 50 solo tackles and two sacks, as many are naming him the next Brian Urlacher of the Bears. It seems that Ryan Poles has found another diamond in the rough to play alongside other talented defensive rookies in Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon. Unfortunately, Jack Sanborn was placed on IR after suffering an ankle injury in Week 15’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. With Sanborn’s season over, there’s no better time to compare his season average to the player we all used to know and love – Roquan Smith.
Roquan Smith in Baltimore doesn’t have as much presence as he did in Chicago because of the Ravens other star-linebacker Patrick Queen. Stats show that Smith, despite starting two more games, has had a very similar season with the Ravens as Sanborn has had with the Bears. Smith and Jack Sanborn both share the same number of sacks with two apiece, but Sanborn beats Smith in solo tackles with 50 over Smith’s 39. What Smith beats Sanborn in is total tackles with 70 compared to 64; tackles for loss with just one more than Sanborn’s five; and one interception while Sanborn has zero. Despite Smith’s mediocre season, he was recently selected to his first ever Pro-Bowl. Stats don’t lie, and neither do those who say that Sanborn is playing at the same level as Smith. Let me know what you think: Is Sanborn the right guy at linebacker, and was it smart to trade away the former All-Pro?
Sanborn absolutely is the right guy, especially when they can spend money around him next year and that can only happen when you have cap space by replacing smith with other areas.