The last thing the Chicago Bears needed after revealing that up-and-coming outside linebacker/edge rusher Leonard Floyd would miss the rest of the season with a knee injury was the kind of demoralizing whipping they received from the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
And while that’s exactly what happened, some positive news was shared before the game kicked off. Bears GM Ryan Pace went on WBBM Radio before the game to offer up a progress report on Floyd’s health:
“We feel like he’ll be ready definitely for training camp,” Pace said, laying out a timetable for Floyd’s return. “This isn’t an injury that’s going to affect him long term. Really for Leonard now the focus is on how he attacks the rehab and that’s really with the same intensity and focus that he had while he was playing this season.”
Floyd picked up 5.5 sacks, a safety, and a fumble recovery in 10 games before suffering his season-ending knee injury. He seemed to hit his stride starting in Week 4, which started a stretch of six games in which he picked up he racked up each of his sacks after going without one in his first three games.
It should come as no surprise that Floyd saw an increase in playing time that coincided with his improved performance. Floyd played on 90.5 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps this season, one year after playing less than 50 percent of the time. That’s the kind of leap that is encouraging for a player of Floyd’s stature.
When you play quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, it’s safe to say Floyd’s continued improvement is a must if the Bears’ rebuild is ever going to get off the ground. The only thing as important as getting Floyd healthy might be getting him some help on the other side of the field.
Injuries have plagued the Bears’ pass rush, whether it’s Willie Young (on injured reserve with a triceps injury), Pernell McPhee (who has played on less than 60 percent of the defensive snaps), or even Lamarr Houston (didn’t make the team after suffering a knee injury in the preseason finale). Based on the team’s current situation, Pace could stand to make the group younger (Young will be 33 next year, McPhee will be 30) and deeper (the current depth chart features undrafted free agent rookie Isaiah Irving and practice squad call-up Howard Jones) in 2018.
So while the Bears have needs to address all over the field when the offseason officially kicks off, there is a case for edge rusher being a high priority. But it all starts with bringing back a healthy Floyd.