As he heals, Leonard Floyd’s eyes getting big: ‘I can’t wait to join the party’
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An early bye week generally isn’t the best timing in the NFL, but Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is truly looking forward to it.
“Yeah, these two weeks definitely are going to help me out a lot — help me get my hand all the way back to 100 percent,” Floyd said after the Bears’ 48-10 victory Sunday against the Buccaneers. “I can’t wait to join the party.”
Floyd, a 2016 first-round pick, hasn’t been invisible as the Bears’ defense has mushroomed into a dominant force behind Khalil Mack. But he hasn’t been Leonard Floyd, either — clearly hampered by the broken right hand he suffered in the preseason that required a club, then a small brace to allow him to play in the Bears’ first four games.
Floyd had a pass breakup and a quarterback hit against the Buccaneers. He had a tackle for loss against the Packers and a fumble recovery and pass breakup against the Seahawks. But as the bookend outside linebacker opposite Mack, he has none of the Bears’ 18 sacks.
And for now, that’s OK. Floyd still is making an impact on the Bears’ fourth-ranked defense.
“We’ve loved the way he’s played against the run,” outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley said. “He’s been outstanding in pass coverage like he always is. His execution of our rush games has been really good. [Against the Buccaneers], you’ll see on the tape there were three or four instances of [that].
“But when you don’t have the full use of your hand — he’s got that club off . . . but it wasn’t that long ago that he was in surgery [Aug. 19]. 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 his play.”
While Floyd is hopeful his hand will be healed by the time the Bears face the Dolphins on Oct. 14 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Staley said, “it’s still going to be some time. It’s going to be a week-to-week thing.”
Floyd could flourish as a complementary piece. Just six months ago, he was the biggest hope for the Bears to develop a consistent pass rusher and impact defensive player. His 11½ sacks in 22 games over his first two seasons were an indication he could possibly get there.
After general manager Ryan Pace drafted Roquan Smith with the eighth overall pick and traded for Mack, some of the pressure is off Floyd, but the potential for impact, difference-making plays is still there.
In fact, it likely is greater than ever in this defense, especially considering how the chain reaction of Mack’s impact has created unsung playmakers — rookie Bilal Nichols, nickel back Bryce Callahan, cornerback Sherrick McManis among them. If the Mack Effect can do that for them, there’s no telling what it can do for Floyd at full strength.
There’s no doubt Floyd has been inhibited by the club and cast on his hand. When you see how Mack and Akiem Hicks use their hands to ignite their pass rush, it’s easy to see how important the full and free use of your hands is to a player such as Floyd.
After four weeks, he’s almost there. Now he gets a free week to get back to full strength. He’s looking forward to that eventuality and “joining the party,” but true to his nature, he still doesn’t want to rush it.
“As a rookie, I learned it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Floyd said.