Leonard Floyd has always been a remarkable athlete, able to play pass coverage as well as speed-rush. Earlier this month, though, Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley identified what made him stand out during training camp.
“His hands,” he said, “have come alive.”
That was, until Saturday night, when Floyd injured his right hand in the Bears’ 24-23 preseason victory against the Broncos. Floyd appeared to land awkwardly on his hand when blocked by left tackle Garett Bolles with about four minutes left in the first quarter.
Coach Matt Nagy said he didn’t think Floyd had a fracture, but Floyd wore a hard cast after the game and was scheduled for further tests.
The Bears have three weeks until they play a meaningful game, but it’s not too soon to be concerned about their pass-rush depth. Aaron Lynch, signed to provide a threat opposite Floyd, was hurt twice during the Bears’ offseason program, then again on the first day of training camp. He has yet to return from a hamstring injury. Nagy said Lynch was making progress.
Second-year edge rusher Isaiah Irving and rookie Kylie Fitts, who impressed in the Bears’ preseason opener, weren’t credited with a sack or quarterback hit on 79 combined snaps against Denver, though Irving recovered a fumble.
Veteran Kasim Edebali, the only Bears outside linebacker with a sack against the Broncos, could warrant a further look. He has experience — Edebali had five sacks for the Saints in 2015 — but is 29. Only three Bears will play the season at 30 or older.
Combined with Akiem Hicks sitting out the game — he woke up with a sore knee — the Bears have more reason to worry about their front seven than at any time during the preseason.
Nagy said late Saturday that holding out Hicks was precautionary. It seemed prescient after Floyd hurt his hand and tight end Adam Shaheen injured his ankle.
“You see, when you have [Floyd] and [Shaheen] have something happen, you want to be on the safe side with that,” he said.
The hand injury was the latest setback for Floyd, the Bears’ 2016 first-round pick. He played only 12 games as a rookie because of concussions and 10 last year before injuring two ligaments in his right knee. Earlier this month, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Floyd was “fighting through his recuperation” from offseason surgery.
He seemed on the upswing the last two weeks before getting hurt.
“You don’t get down because you don’t really know what it is,” Nagy said of his team’s attitude after the injuries. “You have an idea of what it is, but you don’t know the severity one way or another and if it’s good or if it’s bad. The guys keep playing, and it’s the next man up.”