Leonard Floyd feels comfortable after two preseason games, and claims he has the progress report to back it up.
“I’ve had great grades,” he said.
Saturday’s game against the Chiefs — the all-important third exhibition of the preseason — will the most important quiz of Floyd’s fledgling NFL career.
Thus far, he’s getting passing pass-rush grades. Whether the Bears’ coaches are judging their first-round pick on a curve — his performance against backups, shouldn’t carry the same weight as when he faces starters — the outside linebacker certainly hasn’t been overpowered or overmatched thus far.
That’s progress in itself: After failing to rack up big sack numbers at Georgia and measuring 6-4, 244 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, Floyd was a polarizing prospect even before the Bears traded up to draft him No. 9 overall.
“My body’s been holding up pretty well,” he said Tuesday.
Positive feedback has boosted Floyd’s confidence in his first preseason. Floyd, who turns 24 in two weeks, already believes he can play in the league.
“Even though it’s a good grade,” Floyd said. “I always want my grade to be better than what it was. I’m going to keep pushing and fighting to get better.”
Floyd returned to practice Tuesday after sitting Sunday with what coach John Fox called a “slight” hamstring injury. The Georgia alum was asked if he had a
signature moment Thursday against the Patriots — perhaps a shared sack with Jonathan Bullard, the first for either player?
“I can’t quite remember,” he said. “I’m really focused on the Chiefs right now. I kinda forgot about most of the plays from that past game.”
The Bears figure to get a long look at him with Pernell McPhee still sidelined with knee problems. Do well, and concerns about McPhee’s availability — or, atleast, his readiness to play a full game after not participating in a live snap since Jan. 3 — are considerably mitigated.
McPhee’s durability poses a problem for the Bears. Just a year removed from being their big-money free-agent acquisition, McPhee nursed a knee problem in the second half last season and eventually had arthroscopic surgery in February. He missed Games 9 and 13, and didn’t play more than 56 percent of the team’s defensive snaps at any point after the eighth contest.
McPhee will have to monitor his knees the rest of his career, and the Bears have vowed to be smart about it. Expecting McPhee to play a full game — or anything close to that — in Week 1 could prove foolish.
Saturday could also mark the last time Floyd is on the field without McPhee. If the Bears veteran is the one that draws extra offensive attention in the regular season, then, the Chiefs game might be the last true judge of the rookie’s talent.
He’ll get his chance: Floyd figures to get even more snaps after playing 30 in Game 1 and 38 on Thursday against the Patriots.
“I was more comfortable because I’d played,” he said. “And I’m looking forward to being even more comfortable this upcoming third game.”
Pass coverage hasn’t been a problem, he said. Floyd was solid in college, and has simply focused on watching the same keys as the Bears’ safeties and inside linebackers.
His body feels good, too. He said he’s about five pounds away from a goal weight he then refused to name; the Bears list him at 240 pounds. He still sets a timer on his phone to remind him to eat.
“Gotta keep eating, man,” he said. “Make sure I don’t skip a meal.”
That weight will benefit Floyd during the rigors of his first season.
His concerns, though, don’t extend past Saturday.
“I feel like every game is a test,” he said. “And I gotta make sure I’m ready to go.”