LAKE FOREST – Bears linebacker Roquan Smith continues to deal with a hip injury and did not practice at all this week. Smith is listed as questionable ahead of Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans.
Head coach Matt Eberflus is optimistic that Smith will play Sunday.
“I think that’s 51%,” Eberflus said. “So we’re excited that he’s there at that point, you know, through the course of the week, and we’ll have to see if he’s going to be up or down [on Sunday].”
Smith was spotted warming up with the team before practice Friday at Halas Hall but was listed as “did not participate” on the practice report. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson (quad) did not practice Friday and is listed as questionable. Eberflus confirmed that Johnson’s injury happened during practice this week.
Additionally, receiver Velus Jones Jr. (hamstring) was limited in practice and is doubtful for Sunday’s game. The Bears already ruled out are linebacker Matt Adams (hamstring), safety Dane Cruikshank (hamstring) and tight end Ryan Griffin (achilles).
Jones said he feels “close” to returning. The rookie has not played in the first two games this season. He was the team’s third-round draft choice (71st overall). The hamstring injury has kept him sidelined throughout much of training camp and into the regular season.
“Just worry about the day ahead,” Jones said. “What can I do to get better? What can I do to get myself back faster? It’s all about focusing on the day ahead and not looking too far down the line.”
If Smith is unable to play, the burden might fall on rookie linebacker Jack Sanborn, a Lake Zurich native who is listed as the backup to Smith on the depth chart. Linebacker Joe Thomas likely would be pulled up from the practice squad. Thomas started during the preseason ahead of Sanborn.
“I think Sanborn is ready,” Eberflus said. “I really do. He’s excited to get going. If he gets his chance to play in the games in terms of playing linebacker, I think he’s ready to do that. And he’s had a good week of practice going.”
Sanborn has been playing a significant role on special teams. He had an impressive preseason at linebacker, too. He had an interception in his first preseason game at Soldier Field.
With Adams already ruled out, Sanborn could see a bigger role. If Smith can’t go either, Sanborn could see a significant amount of time on defense.
“I feel confident in myself,” Sanborn said. “That’s just from everything that we’ve gone through so far. All of training camp, practice and all that. That’s where your confidence is going to grow.”
As for the situation at cornerback, if Johnson is unable to play, expect to see Kindle Vildor playing more. Cornerback Lamar Jackson could be the next man up in sub-packages when the Bears need five defensive backs.