Even as one of the Bears’ most versatile players, Leonard Floyd entered his fourth season with a bit of a one-dimensional pass-rushing track record.
His speed, length and flexibility have never been in question, but rarely have we seen the former No. 9 overall pick overwhelm a tackle with sheer strength en route to the quarterback.
That changed Thursday night vs. the Green Bay Packers.
In one of Floyd’s better games as a pro, his first sack came off a nifty design from new coordinator Chuck Pagano, who aligned Floyd on the outside shoulder of Khalil Mack. The first-team All Pro rushed from a three-tech position with his hand in the dirt, destroying OG Billy Turner and moving Aaron Rodgers off his spot, with Floyd finishing his speed rush vs. RT Bryan Bulaga to drop the passer.
Granted, the Packers hadn’t seen this alignment from the Bears’ top two edge rushers before but certainly had felt the wrath of Floyd, who entered Thursday with 5.5 of his 15 career sacks coming against his biggest rivals.
What Floyd did next, then, qualified as a far greater surprise.
Aligned in his more familiar right defensive edge post early in the third quarter of a 7-3 game, Floyd tapped into his strength on third-and-long with a fierce bull rush that completely overwhelmed first-team All Pro David Bakhtiari en route to Rodgers.
Like that, Floyd had his fourth career multi-sack game — including two in a row vs. Green Bay — reached the halfway mark in Week 1 of his 16-game regular-season total the year prior and showed a new sign that in fact his true breakout season is officially underway.
“It was just me knowing the guy I was going up against, knowing that one of his flaws was handling the power, and I just happened to catch him at a perfect time and finished the rush on the quarterback,” Floyd told PFW Monday.
Was this one of the developing tools that Floyd’s new OLB coach, Ted Monachino, famously predicted would help his talented pass rusher consistently close deals at the top of pockets?
“It’s always developing. Still developing,” Floyd said of his bull rush, laughing. “I’ve been trying to get it into my game these past few years, and this past game was the first time I executed it in front of everybody.”
Monachino, after all, said the key for Floyd was identifying and refining his go-to and his counter moves off it. And with his unique speed and athleticism, heating up the edges with explosiveness, it’s fair to say, will remain Floyd's bread and butter.
But Monachino also pointed out that, “as a power rusher at the top of the pocket, I don't think he's going to have any problem” overcoming perceived strength and violence deficiencies.
So we asked Floyd Monday what the secret is in converting speed to power, and if the Bears now have two guys who can get home in myriad ways.
“Probably just setting it up. Just keep using speed, speed, speed and then out of nowhere, speed to power. Just using moves, setting them up for the next move.”
If Floyd continues to show this new element in his rush repertoire, his next move likely will be into the discussion of the NFL's double-digit sack artists. There's then no telling what he and Mack can do together.
"It was pretty good," Floyd told us of starting his potential contract season on high note individually after a quiet first half of 2018. "I’m looking forward to going out this week and playing at an even higher level and cleaning up some of the mistakes that I made in the first game."
Burton progressing: The Bears are two days from releasing their first Week 2 injury report, but Matt Nagy said that TE Trey Burton "looked like he was moving around pretty good" Monday. Of course, that was the first time the Bears have practiced since Burton missed the opener with what the team called a new, minor groin strain unrelated to the injury that forced him to miss the playoff game and undergo sports hernia surgery in March.