Great pass rushers don’t grow on trees. They are drafted, developed, and unleashed on quarterbacks over time. Fortunately, the Bears have a certain (former) top-10 pick who could be ready to break out in a big way as soon as this season.
Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report shares his predictions for whom he believes will be the breakout performer on each of the NFL’s 32 teams. And when it comes to the Bears, outside linebacker/edge defender Leonard Floyd is Moton’s pick to click. Hello.
In case you were unaware, Floyd’s injury-shortened 2017 season still landed him among the league’s highest-rated outside linebackers and among the top-10 pass-rushers in all of football. Back in April, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks expressed his belief that Floyd was primed for the sort of breakout season that could help propel the Bears defense firmly into the top 10. And for what it’s worth, the Bears aren’t concerned about Floyd’s health as of now – even as he sat out a minicamp session in April.
Indeed, it is unfortunate that the only thing that’s stopped Floyd from reaching his potential happens to be the one thing that could prevent that breakout campaign from occurring in the first place – injuries. If you recall, Floyd fought concussion issues for months at the end of his rookie season, but the Bears were convinced that his neck/head/back issues could be avoided with a better tackling technique. Last season, friendly fire with teammate Kyle Fuller resulted Floyd’s aforementioned season-ending knee injury, and that brings us to 2018.
The 10 missed games for Floyd in his first two seasons is admittedly troubling, but I’d fall short of calling him injury prone considering the randomness of his 2017 knee injury and the lack of a deeper general knowledge of head injuries (and the chance that some sounder tackling could help mitigate the issue). But that Floyd was productive last year despite injury problems suggests that the breakout season really should come as soon as he’s healthy enough to stay on the field (which, again, should be this season – his third under Vic Fangio).
And if recent history is any indicator, a breakout really could be on the horizon.
Cornerback Kyle Fuller had a career year in 2017, which happened to come while playing in his third season in Fangio’s defense. Fellow secondary member Adrian Amos checked in as Bleacher Report’s top-rated free safety and earned a spot on Pro Football Focus’ All-Pro Team after grading out as the second-best player at the position last season. Fittingly enough, it also came in his third year playing in the scheme. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman had arguably his best season in 2017, setting career bests in tackles, assists, and QB Hits … all while playing on a career-best 609 snaps. Once again, it came in Year 3 under Fangio. It’s hard not to see a pattern here.
If this trend continues, Floyd should be lined up to take the next step forward, living up to his potential.