Roquan Smith makes an immediate impact

Roquan Smith makes an immediate impact

What We Learn How Roquan Impacts Dominant Defensive Day originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST — Roquan Smith’s ramp-up reached the next phase on Tuesday as the Bears’ star linebacker returned to team practice for the first time since ending his dominance Saturday.

On the first play of 11 on 11, Smith broke through the line and blew a run from David Montgomery to a 3 loss with the help of Robert Quinn. The entire defensive touchline went wild after Smith’s play, and someone yelled, “He’s back!”

Later, quarterback Justin Fields faced heavy pressure and tried to dump the ball to Cole Kmet in the flat, but Smith was in cover and hit the ball.

With the drama done for now, the Bears defense is happy to have their best player back on the field.

“I would say everybody has a sense of confidence, a different sense of confidence when he’s there, especially me, as you said, playing with him for two years,” cornerback Jaylon Johnson said of having Smith back. “There are some things that are kind of unsaid, and we don’t always have to communicate certain things. We can kind of look at things the same way.

“And then communication is easier. Our communication doesn’t necessarily have to be the same with everyone as it is with both of us. As if we didn’t have to say many words. It’s just his sense of security when you have a guy like him knowing his game intelligence, knowing how he physically plays the game. I mean, he’s a monster. But just the leadership and IQ he brings to the defense is definitely a huge leap forward.”

The contract stalemate hasn’t left Smith bitter or given less than 100 percent.

“I would just say that since he wants to be one of the greats, I feel like he should keep the main as main and now that’s playing ball,” Johnson said. “And he’s been doing it since he got back, since he got back and he’s a real professional. At the end of the day, he just wants to go out and he wants to play ball and make plays with us.”

With Smith back, the Bears defense dominated what was a disjointed offense on Tuesday.

During an 11-on-11 segment, Fields played deep on the left sideline for Darnell Mooney. Mooney was wide, but the pass went high and bounced off the receiver’s fingertips and landed in Johnson’s arms for an interception.

With sprints on the line at a later period by the team, the Bears’ defense once again dominated the offense.

Kyler Gordon came in on a nickel blitz on first down, notching a possible sack. Justin Jones was also under pressure.

On second down, Fields played midfield for Mooney, but the ball once again went a little out. The ball was tackled by Johnson, then bounced off Mooney’s fingers, and was eventually picked up by Gordon for an interception. The final play saw the defense blast a screen pass to Montgomery, forcing Fields to throw it at the feet of the defender and sending the offense into an afternoon cardio.

Coach Matt Eberflus said the starters will play most of the first half on Saturday in Cleveland. That’s necessary given what we’ve seen of Tuesday’s attack.

Here are more notes from Tuesday’s workout:

— Velus Jones Jr. and Khalil Herbert were among the players who did not participate on Tuesday. N’Keal Harry, Jaquan Brisker, Byron Pringle, Tavon Young, Thomas Graham Jr., Trestan Ebner, Jaylon Jones, Lucas Patrick, Angelo Blackson, Tajae Sharpe and Caleb Johnson also missed training.

— Eberflus spoke before training and noted that Young has been working with a leg injury for most of the camp.

— During individual training, Trevis Gipson came on a stunt double and destroyed rookie Zachary Thomas. Braxton Jones stopped Al-Quadin Muhammad, but lost to Robert Quinn.

— The Bears offense ended the day as awkwardly as it started with a lackluster two-minute workout in the red zone.

Montgomery opened the drill with a 1-yard dash. On the second down, Fields faced pressure and tried to pass to Kmet, but Smith broke the pass. A draw for Montgomery gained 10 yards and reduced the offense to 9.

But they couldn’t get it right.

Montgomery ran to the right with no gain on first down before catching 4 on second. There seemed to be some miscommunication on the third descent. Fields had Kmet open in the end zone, but Mooney opened in the back of the end zone directly behind the tight end. Fields threw a ball that looked like a ticket to Mooney, but Kmet tried to catch it, and the ball bounced off his hands and landed incomplete.

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