On the morning of August 9th, All-Pro Linebacker Roquan Smith requested a trade out of Chicago. He cited his ongoing standstill in his contract situation, saying that the offered deal for Smith would be “bad for [himself] and for the entire LB market [if he signed].” To Smith, the front office “doesn’t value” him and has refused to negotiate for Roquan as a person, instead trying to make him stick around on a more “team-based” contract. Wherever he gets traded, if that is to come to fruition, it will be outside of the NFC North, and in that case, the Lions can breathe a big sigh of relief. They won’t be facing the 6’1” monster linebacker twice a year. Instead, the Lions will be able to possibly switch up the offensive game plan against the Bears. After all, an absence in a position once filled by an All-Pro linebacker is something that will open holes in your defense, creating weak spots to be exploited.
Roquan Smith has posed a constant threat to the Lions’ offense anytime they face off against the Bears. Coming out of College, he had unmatched speed and pursuit which allowed him to make impressive run fills for the Georgia Bulldogs. Similarly, his pressure on blitzes and his ability to cover in the middle of the field were both strengths that couldn’t be overlooked. The Bears agreed, selecting Smith with the 8th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Smith has easily been able to translate that to the NFL, and the Lions have felt it. Smith averages close to 10 total tackles against the Lions every game, and that doesn’t even tell the whole story. His ability to track runningbacks and his above-average pass coverage makes it near impossible to make short to medium throws.
Recently, Roquan Smith’s strengths have been the Lions’ weakness. Jared Goff has been a lot more accurate throwing passes near the line of scrimmage, which is where Smith thrives. On top of this, Detroit’s offensive line coupled with one of the best RB rooms in the NFL (D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Jermar Jefferson, etc.) make the run game a focal point of the offense almost every drive. Smith’s abilities make the Lions worse on offense as a whole, pushing them out of their comfort zone and forcing the Lions to make riskier play calls and ultimately lose drives, or even the entire game.
Smith’s likely absence from the Bears is great news for this Lions team. Penei Sewell is ready to come into his own as the franchise Offensive Tackle, and the rest of the O-Line is filled with stars at their respective positions. Frank Ragnow has been a standout Center, and one of the best in the league in both run blocking and pass pro. Taylor Decker has been rock-solid in his Left Tackle spot since 2016, and he was the first Lions rookie to start all 16 games since 2001. Halapoulivaati Vatai’s switch to right guard paid dividends, and he ranked 29th out of 88 qualified guards on Pro Football Focus. These strengths will only be heightened by the hole that Roquan Smith leaves in the Bears’ defense. Not only that, but Jared Goff will have a much easier time throwing the ball against the Bears to his star Wide Receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams. The underneath threat of TJ Hockenson will be felt as well, and the middle of the field will be a stomping ground for the big Tight End. The Lions pose so many offensive threats, and without the presence of an All-Pro starter, the Bears will have to make defensive decisions that will eventually cost them. The Lions will only look to capitalize on the Smith trade and make use of their strengths even more with his departure from the Bears organization.