It took Leonard Floyd half a football season last year to accomplish what the Bears envisioned the lengthy linebacker doing frequently when they drafted him ninth overall in 2016.
Sack the quarterback.
If there is still potential with Floyd, the former Georgia product who turns 27 on Sunday, he flashed it Thursday night in the Bears’ season opener against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. At least there was that bright spot, along with the defense, for the Bears in their 10-3 loss.
“It was a humbling experience,” Floyd said. “It just shows that we can improve in all phases of the game. I look forward to us doing that and coming out next week and getting the job done.”
Floyd’s first-quarter sack of Aaron Rodgers on the visitors’ second series of the night meant no repeat of last season. That’s when Floyd, who played the first month of the season with a protective club on his broken right hand, didn’t record his first sack until the Bears’ ninth game.
“Khalil (Mack) gave it to me,” Floyd said of his first sack of the season. “He missed the tackle and I was right there to clean it up.”
Floyd finished last season with 4 sacks, hiking his three-year career total to 15. He also had a Pick 6, the first interception of his NFL career.
Floyd added his second sack of this season in the third quarter, dropping Rodgers for a 7-yard loss for the second time. And while the offense sputtered from its opening series until the end, the defense, in particular Floyd and defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris, flourished.
Robertson-Harris, however, wanted no praise.
“We lost,” he said with a glare. “You’re here to win. You play the game to win. so whatever I did doesn’t matter. ... I could have done more. I missed 2-3 tackles.”
Still, on a defense loaded with playmakers (Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, Roquan Smith), the pair of Bears showed they could be in line for breakout seasons.
Robertson-Harris sacked Rodgers for 10 yards on the game’s third snap and later chased down the Packers quarterback along with Hicks, who got there first to earn credit for the sack.
While the Bears had high expectations for Floyd since the day they drafted him, they couldn’t have had many for Robertson-Harris. Such is the case with any undrafted free agent.
Robertson-Harris, who at 6 feet 5 is the same height as Floyd but about 50 pounds heavier, made the Bears’ roster in 2016 after playing collegiately at UTEP and has impressed almost every time he’s been on the field. He had 2 sacks as a rookie and three last year. His bulked-up physique has coincided with his growth as a player.
The Bears finished with 5 sacks and, other than Rodgers’ second-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham, the defense did its part.
Now the Bears have to find a couple of offensive players ready to break out in 2019.
“Our job on defense is to stop them from scoring,” Floyd said. “So we got to keep them from scoring, plain and simple.”