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10 Most Important Bears of 2021: #7 Roquan Smith

For the 13th straight year I’m bringing you who I believe will be the ten most important Bears for the upcoming season, and up next is inside linebacker Roquan Smith.

Chicago Bears Training Camp Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Inside linebacker Roquan Smith made the 2nd-Team All-Pro Team a year ago, but at just 24-years old he’s still scratching the surface on his potential. He’s one of the most athletic and speedy off-ball linebackers in the game today, and as he’s readying himself to enter his fourth professional season, the game will continue to slow down for him as his football intellect continues to grow.

Earlier this spring, his teammates voted him the 2020 Ed Block Courage Award winner, which shows the kind of weight he carries in that locker room.

Smith has embraced a leadership role for the Chicago Bears this offseason, and while a recent mic’d up segment on the team’s YouTube channel shows his vocal side, he’s also setting an example with his actions as well. “He is practicing and showing up in meetings right now like he’s a rookie,” head coach Matt Nagy said last month from minicamp. “It’s special, it really is, and it’s not talk, it’s real. He’s out there, everything’s 100 miles per hour. He wants to learn. He’s willing to be a sponge. He doesn’t think he knows everything. He’s extremely motivated internally.”

Roquan was the only returning starter on the defensive side of the ball that was on the field at every team activity this summer.

The Bears would sorely miss Smith if he were to miss any time, as the depth at inside linebacker is frighteningly thin. Sure they went out and added veteran Christian Jones, but at 30-years old he’s on the downside of his career. Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Josh Woods could be in the mix backing up inside too, but they’ve played a combined 72 snaps on defense the last two years.

Smith’s combination of on and off field excellence, plus the severe drop off if he were to miss any games is why he’s checking in at number seven on this year’s Most Important Bears list.