Jack Sanborn confident if he replaces Roquan Smith in Bears defense

Why Jack Sanborn is confident if he gets starting job originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears are not excited to have lost a player like Roquan Smith on the field. No one man can fill the void of his NFL-leading 83 tackles, or the void of what he meant in the locker room. They are excited, however, about the opportunity it will present for young linebackers to show what they can do with an increased snap count. One of those guys is Jack Sanborn. The undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin has impressed his coaches at practice, but hasn’t had the chance to get on the field playing behind several veterans. Now he appears to be in line for more snaps with the shuffling going on in the linebackers room.

“He plays hard, he plays physical,” said defensive coordinator Alan Williams. “In terms of the HITS principle, he does hustle, he is intense. So those are the first two steps.”

The other big step is that he made the most of his preseason opportunities. Over parts of three games, Sanborn notched 18 tackles. Most importantly, he had a hand in two takeaways: one interception and one fumble recovery. Matt Eberflus singled out the ability to take away the ball when talking about why the Bears didn’t necessarily evaluate Smith the way his Colts evaluated Shaq Leonard. When speaking about Sanborn, Williams again singled out his ability to create takeaways in his preseason playing time.

“What's there not to like about Sanborn?” Williams said. “He just needs a chance to get on the field and perform.”

It’s still unclear where he’ll get that chance. Sanborn played a handful of snaps at SAM last week, Eberflus dropped his name in the competition to replace Smith at WILL, and Sanborn took some snaps at MIKE during practice according to team sources. It seems any position could be on the table, and Sanborn doesn’t have a preference among any of the spots on the field.

“I’m confident in myself,” Sanborn said. “I believe I’m a smart player, I understand what the role of the defense is, where I’m supposed to be doing my job. Then once that’s good, try to do some more. So, I’m not going to try to do anything crazy, I’m going to try to be myself.”

That’s the key Williams and Eberflus want to hammer home. If guys can play their assignment correctly, fill gaps properly and don’t try to do too much to replace Smith, the defense will be ok. If Sanborn is part of the Bears solution moving forward, his coaches and teammates have confidence in him.

“I don’t think he needs any advice,” said Nick Morrow. “I’m not gonna get in his ear to make him nervous or anything like that.”

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