Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: it’s early and the Chicago Bears’ have yet to receive the level of pass-rushing contributions from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd expected before the start of the season.
It’s a disappointing development in early 2018, but hope is not lost. Because even though the numbers aren’t there for Floyd in the sack department just yet, his position coach is quick to note the third-year edge rusher is making waves elsewhere: “We’ve loved the way he’s played against the run,” said Outside Linebackers Coach Brandon Staley, via Pro Football Weekly’s Bob LeGere. “He’s been outstanding in pass coverage like he always is, and I think his execution of our rush games has been really good. (Sunday) you’ll see on the tape that there were three or four instances of him really executing our pass-rush game plan well.”
Floyd has earned high marks for his pass coverage and efforts in defending the run from Pro Football Focus, as having the 12th best coverage grade and 16th best run-defense grade shouldn’t be overlooked. This is a sign that Floyd is starting to come into his own, which should be celebrated for what it’s worth.
But still … I can’t get over the sense of disappointment I feel knowing Floyd entered the bye week with no sacks, no tackles-for-loss, and just one quarterback hit in four games. From an advanced metrics standpoint, Floyd’s 56.0 pass-rush grade from Pro Football Focus is the lowest among the Bears’ edge defenders and second lowest among members of the team’s front seven who have played the requisite number of snaps to qualify for inclusion on the leaderboard.
Then again, we’re used to Floyd getting off to slow starts from a pass-rushing standpoint and finding his stride later. Floyd had 1/2 sack in his first four games as a rookie in 2016, but had a two-sack game against the Packers in that started a five-game stretch in which he picked up 6.5 sacks. It happened again in 2017 when Floyd went without a sack in his first three games before exploding for a four-game run where he picked up four sacks and a safety. Getting off to slow starts is a troubling trend, but one we know Floyd has been able to overcome in the past.
So while this isn’t quite what anyone expected from Floyd, we’re willing to cut him some slack as he clearly struggled to play with the over-sized club on his right hand. In the two games since going to a smaller cast, Floyd has looked more like himself (even if he hasn’t brought down the quarterback just yet). Once Floyd gets full use of his hand, he’ll be in a better position to fight off blockers in one-on-one situations and excel as a pass-rusher once again. After all, Floyd had just got a feel for using his hands right before the injury occurred.
We had high hopes for Floyd coming into the season … and still do. And because Khalil Mack is dominating, it’s easier to be patient as Floyd gets it going in the right direction again. Our patience with Mitch Trubisky was rewarded with an all-time great performance by a Bears quarterback, so maybe it’s not crazy to think it could happen for another first-round pick.