Leonard Floyd’s performance against the Bills in Week 9 was a step in the right direction. He picked up four tackles (tying a season-high), collected his first QB Hit since Week 4, and came away with a pick-six in a 41-9 win. But a 5-3 start has raised the bar for Bears fans, especially those of us still waiting for Floyd to get his first sack of the 2018 season.
Because, c’mon, what’s up with that?
The Athletic’s Dan Pompei digs into the issue and gets the unique perspective of Hall of Famer and Bears legend Richard Dent, who has an idea of what has gone wrong for Floyd, a 2016 first-round pick who has yet to live up to his potential.
Dent, who picked up 124.5 career sacks in 170 games with the Bears, knows a thing or two about getting to the quarterback. In Floyd, Dent sees a player who is playing “straight up” and not using leverage that could help him get to the quarterback. Playing vertical allows offensive linemen to get into potential pass-rushers and eliminate them from getting up-field and making a play. And while Floyd has speed to bend the edge, Dent sees Floyd not having the proper technique to take advantage of it. And without a reliable counter-move, Floyd is becoming easier to block – even if teammates like Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks are getting extra attention.
Don’t get me wrong. Having speed, athleticism, upside, and potential is great. But without improved technique, it’s going to be difficult for Floyd to reach his potential, let alone take advantage of his size, length, speed, and other perceived strengths.
It’s not like the Bears don’t know Floyd is having problems. Floyd’s position coach Brandon Staley told the team’s official site they are working on the little things and taking extra time to get the player in a position to take advantage of the strides he had made in recent games. Meanwhile, Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio explained to the Chicago Tribune that Floyd needs to be more decisive earlier in his rushes to fully take advantage of his speed and athleticism.
So how else can the Bears remedy this problem? Perhaps calling up Dent for a tutoring lesson wouldn’t hurt.
“He needs somebody to work with him, because it’s not going in the right direction,” Dent told The Athletic. “I’d love to work with the kid.”
Head Coach Matt Nagy has welcomed the help of past Bears greats in his first year with the team, so I suppose it wouldn’t out of the realm of possibilities that Dent could be one phone call away from lending a helping hand to a player in need of assistance, guidance, and direction.
We already know Sunday’s Week 10 showdown against the Lions opens up an important stretch of games for the Bears, who play five of their last eight games against NFC North rivals. But we also need to point out how valuable these games can be for Floyd.
Chicago’s front office holds the fifth-year option on Floyd’s rookie deal. Should Floyd’s performance not merit the team picking up the option for 2020, it would mean the Bears would have declined the option on three consecutive first-rounders. Frankly, that’s not something winning organizations can afford to do. And you can figure that fifth-year option is going to be one that comes with a heavy price tag. The salary attached to Floyd’s fifth-year option would be the average of the top-10 players at a his position because he was picked in the top-10. An example of what Floyd and the Bears could be looking at from a financial perspective is Khalil Mack, who was drafted in 2014 and is playing this season on a fifth-year option worth $13.8 million.
As you can see, Floyd has a lot riding on this pivotal stretch of games … as do the Bears. If Floyd can put it together down the stretch, it will be to the benefit of his team and himself.