BOURBONNAIS — Panthers edge rusher Bruce Irvin — career sacks: 43.5 — wanted to know how his fellow Georgia native was doing. So when he spoke to former Raiders teammate Khalil Mack this offseason, he’d ask about Leonard Floyd.
“I’m like, ‘Man, Leonard works hard,’” Mack said. “Those are things that you really can’t teach. You kinda gotta learn that over time — work hard and really paying attention to detail and asking a lot of questions.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what he does.”
So does general manager Ryan Pace, who singled Floyd out as the veteran who flashed the brightest during the Bears’ offseason workouts. New defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano sees his potential, too.
Is this the year the former No. 9 overall pick finally puts it together?
The Bears decided this offseason to extend to Floyd a fifth-year option, locking him onto the team through 2020. They believe his best statistical seasons are ahead of him.
Thus far, Floyd has played 38 out of a possible 48 games in his NFL career, totaling only 15.5 sacks.
“He can play the heck out of the run, but pass rush? You can see that thing starting to pop,” Pagano said Thursday. “He’s got great confidence right now. He’s at a great place. Every time he lines up because he knows exactly what his job is, where his eyes are supposed to be.
“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.”
At 6-4, 251 pounds, Floyd is a specimen.
“I’ve coached a bunch of big ones, I’ve coached big ones, I’ve coached smart ones, I’ve coached fast ones,” outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said during the offseason program. “I’ve never coached an athlete like this. …
“His length. His short-area quickness. Long speed. The ability to cover and change direction. All of those things are really special with this player.”
Last season marked the first time Floyd played all 16 games, but he just wasn’t himself in the first half. After having right hand surgery in August, he started the season wearing a club. He didn’t post his first sack until the ninth game. He had three sacks and eight quarterback hits over the last six games, though.
“I was hindered a lot,” Floyd said. “I was basically one-handed. But when I got back I started to play better. This year I’m looking to build on what I did at the end of the season.”
Hand aside, Floyd said he’s learned how to care for himself through the rigors of the season.
“Doing maintenance and stuff on my body just to stay out on the field,” he said.
Playing opposite Mack, Floyd proved to be reliable in the run game last season. He’ll have every chance to be successful on passing downs, given the extra blockers Mack will face.
Mack has been a good influence, too.
“He’s just a great person and a great leader and a good motivator,” Floyd said. “Just love being around the guy. he leads by example and he leads vocally. He’s a great person. It’s hard not to like him.”
Spending training camp alongside Mack can only help Floyd’s repertoire — though the latter said he wants to keep those details a secret.
“You’ll see, starting the first game against Green Bay,” he said.
The soft-spoken Floyd said he hadn’t heard about Pace’s praise, but he appreciated it. He plans to let his play do the talking.
“I’ve been trying to stay level-headed and stay humble and keep coming out and practicing hard,” Floyd said. “And doing whatever it takes to win.”