OLB Leonard Floyd doesn’t have any of the Bears’ NFL-best 18 sacks, but no one is disappointed in his performance, especially considering he has started every game despite playing with a broken right hand.
Floyd had seven sacks in 12 games as a rookie after being drafted ninth overall, and he added 4.5 more last year despite missing six games with a knee injury that required surgery. So he came to training camp as arguably the Bears’ best pass-rush threat. Then he suffered the hand injury on Aug. 18 in a preseason game against the Broncos, had surgery and missed the remainder of the preseason.
For the first three weeks of the regular season, Floyd played with what trainers refer to as a “giant Q-tip,” protecting his injury, a massive club of padding covering a plastic cast. Last week the protective device was scaled down so that he had some use of his fingers. It’s obviously affected his play and his ability to grab blockers when he’s rushing the passer, but the 6-foot-4, 251-pounder has contributed in other ways.
Floyd leaped to bat down a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass vs. the Bucs Sunday, his second pass breakup of the season. He’s second to Khalil Mack among Bears outside linebackers with eight tackles and also recovered a fumble against the Seahawks in Week Two. Floyd was drafted so early because of the speed and athleticism that make him an impact pass rusher and also allows him to be a factor in coverage. He has the speed to run with running backs and the size to match up with tight ends. And this year he’s added another element to his game.
“We’ve loved the way he’s played against the run,” OLB coach Brandon Staley said. “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.”
While Floyd has the experience and skill set to work pass-rush stunts with teammates to confuse offensive linemen, he’s still limited in being able to finish at the quarterback because of his hand injury.
“When you don’t have the full use of your hand …” Staley said. “He has the club off and all that, but his hand is still (restricted). It wasn’t that long ago that he was in surgery. I think once he gets the full strength of his hand back, that’s going to help him in one-on-one pass-rush situations. But we’ve been very pleased with him overall.”
Floyd’s improvement vs. the run is partly due to the strength he’s added since coming to the Bears as a skinny youngster who looked more like an NBA small forward than an NFL linebacker. But it’s also because of his mental approach to the task.
“Stopping the run is all mindset,” Floyd said. “I’ve just been making sure I’ve got a great mindset of beating my guy and making the play on the ball carrier.”