The Chicago Bears likely won’t be competing for the Super Bowl this year. It should be a rebuilding season to determine which players are part of the long-term vision for the franchise. In these cases, the Pro Bowl can often become a great way for somebody to establish himself in that picture. Of course, they need to be on the right side of 30 for that. Guys like Robert Quinn and Eddie Jackson don’t qualify.
It brings up an interesting question. Plenty of young guys on this team haven’t made the Pro Bowl yet. Maybe the arrival of a new coaching staff could help get them over the hump. Who is the most likely to do this? There are multiple candidates. Jaylon Johnson is an emerging presence at cornerback. Darnell Mooney cracked 1,000 yards last season and has growing chemistry with Justin Fields. David Montgomery has topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage every year and is finally in an offensive system that should cater to him. Yet none of them was the choice by Nick Shook of NFL.com.
He went for the low-hanging fruit instead: linebacker Roquan Smith.
“Smith has earned two second-team All-Pro selections, yet he hasn’t received a Pro Bowl nod to this point. Something is off with that. The Bears aren’t expected to be a serious contender this season, but if we have to pick a player with the best chance of reaching the Pro Bowl on Chicago’s roster, the obvious choice is Smith. I mean, the rest of the football world is going to get wise eventually, right?”
It isn’t a shock that Smith is the pick. One could make the case that he should’ve been in the Pro Bowl for the past two years. That is how superb he’s been for the Bears. If one compares his production, he is on the same trajectory as Brian Urlacher was during his first four seasons. Even crazier is that Smith is about to transition into the same defense Urlacher did in 2004 under Lovie Smith. The same system that made him Defensive Player of the Year. Imagine what Roquan might do with Matt Eberflus now guiding the way.
The Chicago Bears have plenty of potential in their midst.
Smith is already a star. Sure, the fan voting hasn’t caught up to it yet, but the film doesn’t lie. He is one of the five best linebackers in the NFL. That is a fact. Putting him in the hands of a coach that developed Darius Leonard is not something the league is ready for. The only decision is whether Smith will play middle linebacker in the new 4-3 system or they try moving him outside. It will come down to what he’s comfortable with.
Don’t expect the Chicago Bears to be satisfied with just elevating him, though. Their primary goal is teaching with this new staff. That means helping players understand how to do something and why they’re doing it that way. When this happens, execution almost always improves. If guys like Johnson, Mooney, and Montgomery get more help from the systems, then their Pro Bowl aspirations should skyrocket.