Expectations are already high for Roquan Smith, having been traded from the Chicago Bears to the Baltimore Ravens. The dynamic central defender is counted on to bring elite playmaking talent into a defense that fails to meet the high standards of a franchise usually defined by excellence on that side of the ball.
Those expectations are shared by two Hall of Famer defensemen who have each won a Super Bowl with the Ravens. Both have hailed the team’s new addition as a “playmaker” and someone who can “wreak havoc”.
However, not everyone is convinced. A respected film analyst doesn’t believe Smith is a true playmaker worthy of an All-Pro for the San Francisco 49ers.
Rod Woodson believes the Ravens were right in giving up second- and fifth-round draft picks along with veteran AJ Klein to bring in Smith. Woodson, who turned for safety and won the Lombardi Trophy as a key member of the Ravens’ legendary defense in 2000, recounted The 33rd team Smith will be “a great tool and asset to Patrick Queen.”
Smith and Queen’s one-two will give the Ravens the sideline-to-sideline playmakers that Woodson believes this season’s linebacker-level defense has been missing. This “great pickup” will also “help the Ravens take control of the AFC North,” according to Woodson.
That’s a lofty prediction, but Ed Reed shares it. The worldwide free safety, which helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII, shares Woodson’s belief that Smith is “a playmaker, a force on defense,” according to an interview also given The 33rd team:
Reed also believes Smith will be “a leader in the locker room” and someone who could push the Ravens “over the hump in the playoffs.”
That’s another high expectation, and it’s easy to wonder if Reed is thinking of Ray Lewis, the dominant and inspirational middle linebacker he stood behind for all of his 11 years in Baltimore.
Smith isn’t quite the power Lewis had in his prime, but the ex-Bears standout will expand what the Ravens can do on defense this season. The 25-year-old leads the league in tackles and has also logged 2.5 sacks, intercepted two passes and called off three others.
These numbers are evidence of an every down linebacker who can affect both phases of an offense. But the stats aren’t enough to convince a prominent analyst that Smith is a prominent player at his position.
Cosell, who also serves as Senior Producer for NFL MoviesHe says “based on tape” Smith doesn’t measure up to the talents of 49ers star Warner. It’s a reasonable argument, but context is king.
Smith wasn’t surrounded by as much talent as Warner. The latter has benefited from playing behind some great defensive lines with the Niners. Players like rush end Nick Bosa and tackle Arik Armstead made Warner’s job easier.
Aside from the 2018 season, when he faced Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, Smith was often stuck on talent-shy and struggling teams in Chicago. He also didn’t have the luxury of as good a center partner as Warner’s fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw.
The Ravens can hope to make things easier for Smith by putting him alongside Queen and surrounding the duo with Justin Houston, Odafe Oweh, Calais Campbell and Travis Jones. A front seven as loaded as Baltimore’s should give a linebacker with Smith’s athleticism and reach the freedom to enjoy offense and live up to the bill given to him by Woodson and Reed.