Joniak: Roquan Smith Working Into Playing Shape

"It was just back to normal," Smith says. "It's ball."

August 15, 2018 - 5:49 pm
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By Jeff Joniak--

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (WBBM Newsradio) -- The Bears held the first of two joint practices with the Broncos on Wednesday. The teams go back to work Thursday before playing a preseason game Saturday. Here are the notes and observations of the day.

First impression

Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd worked hard rehabilitating the MCL and PCL strains that ended his 2017 season and required surgery. It's the same work ethic that dates back to his youth football days. His work against a fast and athletic Broncos offense Wednesday was yet another positive step in his road to recovery.  

"This last injury I had, it really helped me out with just getting focused and being more committed to my craft," Floyd said. "The whole offseason, I stayed in Chicago and just worked hard on my leg and worked hard on my game. That’s basically all I’ve been doing."

Floyd banged knees with teammate Kyle Fuller in a game last Nov. 19 and left the game. The good news then was that it wasn't an ACL injury, which would have been a longer recovery. 

Floyd has missed a combined 10 games in his first two seasons due to injuries. In the 22 he’s played, he’s recorded 11.5 sacks. Broncos star outside linebacker Von Miller had 11.5 sacks in his rookie season and has 83.5 sacks in his first seven seasons, which ranks fourth among active players.  

Miller is arguably the premier 3-4 pass rushing linebacker in the game. That's the lofty status to which Floyd wants to ascend, and he's not backing down from that challenge.

Floyd repeatedly references "one day at a time" as his line of thinking to build his career brick by brick.

"I definitely want to be at the top," Floyd said. "He’s at the top right now, and I’m fighting every day to get there right beside him or even pass him. That’s my goal."

Second thought

No one knows rookie linebacker Roquan Smith better on the Bears than Floyd, his old college teammate at Georgia. Floyd was short and sweet when asked to explain what Bears fans are getting in Smith, who ended a 29-day holdout when he signed his contract Tuesday and immediately got to work.

"He’s a good kid," Floyd said. "He’s Chicago tough already and he works hard."

To play inside linebacker and call a defense at a high level, it takes a great deal of football intelligence and instincts as well. 

"Sometimes when you try to get everybody else lined up, you forget your job," fellow inside linebacker Danny Trevathan said. "You got to be able to do that, your job and know how to check stuff. I just tell him not to just focus on yourself. When you’re drawing stuff up, draw everybody out there just so you know where everybody fits at."

Trevathan learned how to do that part of his job with the Broncos, for whom he played from 2012-'15 and won the Super Bowl with following the 2015 season. That title-winning team featured a defense that had future Hall of Fame pass rusher DeMarcus Ware and a perennial Pro Bowl outside linebacker in Miller. Trevathan grew into the job, rising from the 188th overall pick in the 2012 draft, while Smith starts his journey as the eighth pick in the 2018 draft.   

Third degree

Smith thought his day was a good one, explaining it felt good to be in pads and that he had fresh legs. When asked if he felt winded Smith responded that he has to work himself into the best shape he can be.

His movement is smooth and fast. His range is significant. He just needs time to get ready. 

"It was just back to normal," Smith said. "It’s ball. It’s what I’ve been doing my entire life. Just doing what I love."

Asked about playing Saturday night, Smith said it’s up to the coaches. Bears coach Matt Nagy has yet to make that decision. 

Smith fits right into the defense, with a tutor like Trevathan easing him in.

"He fits in nicely with that $11.5 million, you know," Trevathan said, a reference to Smith's new contract. "He fit real good. No, seriously he fit right in. No fall-off. We knew what type of player he was. We just have to get him listening, get him fined tuned."

Fourth-and-short

While Smith gets acclimated and ready for the season opener on Sept. 9, the time, effort and progress that reserve inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski has put in isn't going unnoticed by teammates and coaches. Trevathan was asked if the Bears could package the three inside linebackers and play them together in situations.

With a devilish grin and a finger over his lips, Trevathan suggested that something like that is right up defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s alley.  

"He’s a football player," Trevathan said of Kwiatkoski. "A lot of people don’t give Nick the credit he deserves. He’s smart. He’s instinctive. He can play anywhere in this league.  He can start anywhere. When 44 is out there, you’re going to know."

How Fangio gets snaps for all three inside linebackers will be season-long storyline.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.