Five signs of progress: Why Bears believe Leonard Floyd will take the next step
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BOURBONNAIS — Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley enjoyed seeing what Leonard Floyd did with his last rep in one-on-one drills against tight ends on Monday.
“He had a good one,” Staley said.
In particular, Floyd had a good pass rush where he used the long-arm move that they’ve been working on extensively since training camp opened.
From Dion Sims to Adam Shaheen to Trey Burton, it didn’t matter who Floyd faced in one-on-one drills that day. Over the last several days of camp, Floyd has started to look like the pass rusher that the Bears need him to be this season.
“We’ve just been really working hard at his game,” Staley said Tuesday.
That said, here are five signs of Floyd’s progress, as seen through the eyes of Staley, who is in his second season in charge of the Bears’ outside linebackers.
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Compared to what Floyd was doing last year at this point in camp, Staley said he sees a better pass rusher in Floyd because he sees better hands.
“His hands have come alive,” Staley said. “To me, when I got here, [it was] the missing piece with him. It’s just being able to use his speed, use his length and attack these guys with his hands. And he’s still got a long way to go, but he’s coming. You can see it.”
The Bears can see it because Floyd improved his handwork on his own. Staley said that Floyd spent part of his offseason doing some “boxing stuff.”
That work has continued in camp during breaks during the special-teams periods of practice, in individual drills or even during moments in the gym when he’s working out.
“It’s making sure that we’re seeing targets, hitting targets and we’re landing punches,” Staley said.
The Bears want Floyd watching pass rushers who are similar to him. They’ve made video cutups of the Broncos’ Von Miller, Jaguars’ Yannick Ngakoue and Cardinals’ Chandler Jones. Former Cowboys and Broncos star DeMarcus Ware also is included.
“That’s something that’s key is watching guys that have your body type, that have your type of game,” Staley said. “[It’s] guys that have length with that speed.
“Him to watch the power rushers, that’s not going to do him the same as watching some of those other guys. He’s doing a good job of that, but we have a long way to go. But I’ve been excited about his progress.”
Floyd’s film work also involves studying offensive tackles. Formulating a better plan of attack for all games starts in camp.
“He’s more confident,” Staley said. “He’s more sure of his rush plan, and that’s what we’ve really tried to do is establish his rush plan and allow him to be aggressive.”
As Staley indicated, by no means should Floyd be considered a power rusher, but finding a way to transform his speed into power is a goal for him.
“[It’s] consistency with his get-off,” Staley said. “I think that you’ll translate the power in his game when he’s got the consistent get-off and he’s really attacking his track and staying on his line. He’s getting better at that.”
The “long arm” is a power move that Floyd is getting better at. It starts with his speed.
“For him to have the speed that he has, tackles are going to have to get back there,” Staley said. “He’s one of the few guys that can just go around you.
“When those tackles are bailing out and their hands are down and their chest is exposed, the long arm is the quickest way to cut the angle to the quarterback. And so we’ve been working on it hard.”
Floyd’s size and athleticism makes him an invaluable chess piece for Fangio. He’s been featured in coverage plenty of times throughout his first two years. But Fangio also likes to use Floyd in various stunts and designed pressures.
“Vic does a tremendous job,” Staley said. “[Defensive line coach] Jay Rodgers, our staff, that’s a big part of who we are.”
This is where experience matters. It’s learning how to play off what defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman are able to do next to him.
It’s feeling their moves, then timing his own moves around them. Floyd can get at stunts and pressures only by practicing and playing.
“He’s mastering and still growing in that role,” Staley said. “So much of that is working with those guys. And that’s why Jay and I, we spend a lot of time together, [it’s] trying to get that timing right.”
Staley said it’s fair to question the depth and potential production of the Bears’ outside linebackers because there are some “unknown commodities” and some players with “injury questions.”
“Certainly, we’re going to lean on guys like Leonard to be a front-line player for us,” Staley said.
Floyd, though, falls into the “injury questions” category. He missed six games last season after suffering damaged ligaments in his right knee. As a rookie, Floyd also struggled with concussions.
But Staley senses that Floyd, the ninth overall pick in 2016, has embraced everything that’s expected of him. In his third camp, Floyd has become more talkative and assertive on and off the field.
“I think that he feels more confident in his job and his role, and so now he’s able to be more of a leader to the other guys,” Staley said. “And he’s never going to be the guy that Sam [Acho] is as a talker, but our guys know that Leonard can do so many things for us. They lean on him by his example, how he is on the practice field, how he is in the meetings. He’s been doing a good job of that.”