Can Leonard Floyd finally reach his potential?


by - Correspondent -
Quinn Harris - USA Today Sports
Quinn Harris - USA Today Sports

Despite a tough 10-3 opening game loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears have to be intrigued with the production one of their former first-round picks gave them. When Leonard Floyd was drafted ninth overall in 2016, he was a physically promising pass rusher with similarities to former Pro Bowl edge rusher Aldon Smith. Is this the year Floyd finally puts it together?

Through Floyd’s first three seasons he has tallied 15.5 sacks in 38 out of 48 possible games. Among edge rushers from his draft class, that ranks third behind Joey Bosa, 28.5 sacks in 35 games, and Yanick Ngakoue, 29.5 sacks in 48 games. At best, you can describe Floyd’s production as underwhelming, especially considering how he can look unstoppable during some games. Look at how he takes on one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL in David Bakhtiari.

The 2019 season opener was one of those games where Floyd looked 100% healthy and dominated as a result. The former Georgia linebacker finished the game with two sacks and would have had three if not for a penalty. Floyd seems to feast on the Packers, with three of his five multi-sack games coming against them.

The key for Floyd would seemingly be not just to find consistency, but also a way to stay on the field. The good news for the Bears is that Floyd had his first fully healthy offseason and training camp since being drafted. In 2016, he battled concussions and a calf strain. In 2017, Floyd needed surgery for a grade three MCL and PCL tear, and in 2018 Floyd played with a club on his broken hand.

With his health looking better, Floyd has impressed his new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Pagano said, “He’ll play really, really fast and use all that God-given ability and talent that he has to cut it loose. Pass-rush stuff will be off the charts.”

A lot of people are looking for Floyd to reach his full potential, but what could a Leonard Floyd breakout look like? His athletic ability is vital to his game, so being healthy should allow him to do more of what he did at Georgia. Last year another consistently injured but athletically gifted pass rusher broke out when his health improved.

Dee Ford, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs, dealt with a devastating back injury in 2017 after a 2016 season that ended with ten sacks. After a full recovery, Ford became one of the most dominant pass rushers in the NFL last season, finishing with 13 sacks and over 78 total pressures.

According to Pro Football Focus, Ford had a pressure rate under 13% for his career before 2018. For reference, Floyd has a pressure rate of 11.6%. In 2018, Ford’s rate jumped to 15.1%, showing the promise that made him a first-round pick in 2014. Floyd seems to fit the same narrative as Ford, especially as he enters a contract year.

Another factor that could help Floyd’s potential pass-rushing breakout is his motor. Bears fans are familiar with some of his biggest sacks coming from a relentless pursuit of the quarterback.

One of his finest examples was this safety against the Minnesota Vikings in 2017. After getting pushed nearly out of the end zone, he is able to bend his way back into the play and get the Bears on the scoreboard.

The Bears would undoubtedly invite more production from Floyd to help Khalil Mack and Akeim Hicks make an even more intimidating defensive line. While Floyd would have a lot of work to do to get to that point, it is not crazy to think a breakout could happen for Floyd this season.

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