Leonard Floyd finished the 2018 season playing his best ball since being drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2016. And for the first time in a long while, he’ll come to training camp with no health-related limitations. The table is now set for Floyd’s breakout season, and the pass-rushing outside linebacker has a singular goal in mind that can make it happen.
“Being violent and just going out with a mindset of getting to the quarterback,” Floyd said, via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. “I have to sharpen my tools. It’s been very different because I have been able to train and do all of the things with no limitations this spring. I believe I was playing my best football during the second half of last year after I really got over my hand injury. I felt like I was playing a lot better and am looking forward to this year and just building off that.”
There are a few things of note that Floyd has brought to light.
For starters, Floyd acknowledged his hand injury limited him during the first half of the season. Because even though Floyd didn’t miss any time because of the hand injury that necessitated a cast in order for him to play through the injury, it was evident that playing in a cast limited him while on the field. It still pains me that Floyd suffered a hand injury literally right after his position coach raved about the talented pass-rusher figuring out how to use his hands to his advantage during training camp. In the most literal sense of the phrase, it was a tough break for Floyd.
And remember, Floyd started last year’s offseason training program still recovering from a season-ending knee injury. The year before that, Floyd arrived in Bourbonnais after needing months to recover from concussion problems that plagued him the year before. It’s been a while since Floyd has entered training camp with a clean bill of health, but he’ll finally get that luxury in 2019.
It’s also worth pointing out that Floyd acknowledged how much better he played in the second half of the season after shedding the protective cast on his hand. Feeling good is one thing, but playing well is another.
The numbers show Floyd is absolutely correct in his self-assessment. Floyd collected all 4 sacks, 8 of his 9 tackles-for-loss, and each of his 11 quarterback hits over the course of the regular-season’s final eight games. Extrapolate those numbers over a full 16-game season and we would be talking about a player with 8 sacks, 16 tackles-for-loss, and 18 quarterback hits. If that is what a healthy Floyd looks like, then the Bears will certainly take that production lining up across from Khalil Mack and alongside a front seven that includes Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, and a rotation of fresh pass-rushing defensive linemen.
Floyd has yet to fully showcase the skills that pushed the team to trade up to select him in the top-10 of the 2016 NFL Draft, but a healthy offseason has him in a position to take a big step in 2019. Floyd is ready for it, the Bears are ready for it, and I am certainly ready for — especially if the end result is a lot more of this: