Vic Fangio is going to have to watch the progress of his former players through a different lens in 2019 and beyond. The former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator took over as the head coach of the Denver Broncos earlier this offseason after four seasons in the Windy City. When speaking at the NFL Owners Meeting out in Arizona this week, Fangio spoke about a former player of his in the form of inside linebacker Roquan Smith.
Fangio was asked about draft prospects Devin White and Devin Bush and the chances the Broncos could take either player with the 10th overall pick in this year's draft. For Fangio, he does not think either of those players is at the same level as Smith.
“I don’t think either one is as good as Roquan at this stage in their career,’’ Fangio said on Tuesday, via Mike Klis of 9News.com. “Roquan is a special player and a special individual. It’s going to take a while to see that in those other two guys.”
Chicago's first-round pick last April, Smith missed all of training camp while working out the details of his contract. Smith finally signed his deal in August, but conditioning and a minor injury kept him off the field in the preseason. He began Week 1 on the bench behind starters Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski. When he got onto the field for the first time in that Week 1 game against the Green Bay Packers, Smith recorded his first career sack on Sunday Night Football. He went on to see action in all 16 games and made 14 starts for the Bears.
Smith ended the regular season with 121 tackles, five sacks, five pass deflections, and one interception. Only Brian Urlacher in 2000 recorded more tackles as a rookie in a Bears uniform. In Chicago's playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round, Smith recorded seven tackles, one pass deflection, and one interception. It took him a couple of games to get into a rhythm on defense, but it was evident late in the season just how big of an impact he can make on the field.
Fangio's history suggests he covets athletic and ferocious defenders at the inside linebacker position in his scheme. He had Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman at the helm in San Francisco before having Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman and eventually Smith in Chicago.
Both White and Bush have received a lot of praise during the draft process. White racked up 286 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception in three seasons at LSU. Bush recorded 172 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and one interception in his three years at Michigan.
Fangio is never one to sugarcoat anything and it is clear that any player the Broncos choose to take over that role at inside linebacker will have to work for it in order to receive the same praise Smith has received from Fangio.
Source: 247Sports | Matt Eurich