Joniak's Journal: Roquan Smith Feeling Good, Raring To Go

Jeff Joniak
September 05, 2018 - 6:59 pm

First Impression

Opting for no risky business in the preseason is paying off for Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy. Only two Bears dot the first week injury report. Veteran tight end Daniel Brown is limited with a shoulder, and safety DeAndre Houston-Carson is out with a broken forearm and sore back. That means the other 51 players practiced completely in pads, including rookie linebacker Roquan Smith, who had hamstring tightness.

“Well, it was never anything too crazy,” Smith said. “It definitely feels a lot better, though, and loose. It feels fine. I’ve just been limited and just trusting those guys on what percentage and stuff they want me to go at and how many reps and stuff.”

While Smith understands the cautious approach, he is also itching to play and play now with 2016 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack.

“It’s very exciting knowing you have a great guy like that. I think it makes everyone more ready and we’re just excited to get out there.”

Mack feels that excitement from teammates. It is palpable. He is trying to settle in after the sudden trade from Oakland, focusing on learning Vic Fangio’s defense. 

Smith, Mack, and Leonard Floyd are all top-ten, first-round picks now sharing linebacker duties on a defense that was in the top ten last season. Smith and Floyd will benefit significantly from Mack’s presence. 


Second Thought

I keep writing and talking about how open Nagy is about all topics. He did it again before practice today when asked about the challenge of preparing for his first regular season game as head coach.

“For me, it’s been good,” Nagy said. “I’ve been able to -- whenever I get some quiet time -- be able to kind of sit down and situationally think of things. Things that may pop up and how I’d handle it. This is my first time, truly, in a regular season game going through this stuff, so I want to try to be as best prepared as possible and that’s to prepare the team as well.”

Nagy is a planner. Superbly organized and focused on what needs to be done, and thorough.

“I’m going to find out. I’m going to be tested myself, individually, test what I’m made of and how I control this team in those situations. I feel like I’ve been prepared by one of the best in the league in Coach (Andy) Reid, and so that’s what I am going to rely on.”

Nagy is ready.


Third Degree

Only one team hit the 500-yard plus mark in offensive yardage in week one last season. It was Kansas City, which rolled up 537 yards in a 42-27 win at New England in the Thursday night NFL opener. Only four teams won by scoring 30 points or more. Only two teams scored less than 20 points and won. One of them was Green Bay, which beat Seattle 17-9. 

In 2016, the Chiefs had 413 yards in a 33-27 win over San Diego.

It was Kansas City winning in Houston 27-20 in 2015.

Nagy knows what a Week 1 offense is capable of accomplishing with the element of surprise and un-scouted looks. 

“I feel good about it, because they have stuff that we haven’t seen, but we also have stuff they haven’t seen, obviously,” Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “That’s the mystery heading into Week 1. You just hope that those plays that you’ve been saving end up to be big plays and help this offense roll down the field.”

Green Bay’s new defensive coordinator is Mike Pettine. Nagy knows him well. They grew up 70 miles apart in central Pennsylvania. He knows his scheme and his style. He is aggressive. So is Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He will push the ball down the field, especially when he leaves the pocket. He doesn’t sweat Week 1, because his experience tells him it’s tough to be smooth out of the gate.

“It’s a work in progress early in the season,” Rodgers said. “It comes down to the execution and not turning the football over on who wins these games, because you are seeing a lot of un-scouted looks.”
Twelve Week 1 2017 winning teams had zero or one turnover in their games. In total, winning teams had 13 turnovers, losing teams had 28.



As a 2013 freshman at Georgia, Leonard Floyd was gearing up for the opener against Clemson and was doing so with his broken left hand completely covered with a club cast. He started the game and made four tackles and hit quarterback Taj Boyd early in the game on a pressure. Sunday night, he will have something similar on his right hand, after surgery to repair broken fingers in the Denver preseason game. So, he does have experience dealing with this less-than-ideal situation. Without a grip, he will have to do what he can to make tackles.

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