Adam L. Jahns’ “Read Options” column appears in Pro Football Weekly, which is available Thursday or Friday in the Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Herald, Rockford Register Star, Northwest Herald, Kankakee Daily Journal, Peoria Journal Star and on ProFootballWeekly.com.
When Bears rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd had a sack for a safety in the waning minutes against the 49ers, he did what top-tier pass rushers do in similar moments across the league.
Floyd closed out the victory.
“It felt great,” Floyd said this week. “I finally got a safety being in the league. So I got it off the list.”
“Finally” is an amusing word to use considering Floyd is only nine games into his NFL career. But add the two points to his résumé for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Not only is Floyd in the conversation for the rookie honor, the No. 9 overall pick might be the leader at the moment. Floyd’s seven sacks top all rookies. He also has five tackles for loss.
Floyd’s forced fumble that he recovered for a touchdown against quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers also was a big-time play made in prime time.
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, the No. 3 overall pick, appears to be Floyd’s main competition. He has 5½ sacks and a forced fumble.
Other rookies who have had solid seasons include: Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (No. 37 pick), Buccaneers defensive end Noah Spence (No. 39), Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (No. 52) and Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (No. 69).
Floyd’s numbers might be better if he didn’t miss two games with a strained calf and one with a concussion. But not every sack is a highlight for Floyd. He was credited with one when he forced quarterback Colin Kaepernick out of bounds for no gain on Sunday.
Expect a strong finish from Floyd over the final four games. He’s been one of the Bears’ best players since Week 7 and has shown no signs of slowing down. If he’s not sacking quarterbacks, he’s harassing and forcing them into his teammates.
Floyd’s performance against the 49ers is an example. It was his first game back after his scary helmet-first collision against the Giants.
“One of my favorite things to watch is how the young boy, Floyd, wants it so bad,” defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said. “Just his energy excites me.”
Floyd’s speed remains his best asset, and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio knows how to use it. Floyd has been used in more stunts. He also improved his handwork and developed better power moves.
“I’d say I’ve been pretty good other than the games I’ve missed,” Floyd said. “I wish I could have played every game up to this point. I just look at it as me just going out there and playing hard. That’s all I’ve been doing.”
* * *
Properly evaluating what quarterback Matt Barkley is doing for the Bears involves forgetting his first two seasons with the Eagles.
Chip Kelly’s nuanced offense requires a certain quarterback with certain traits, and that never was Barkley, a fourth-round pick in 2013.
Barkley feels more at home in offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ offense.
“[Kelly’s offense] was all new to me,” Barkley said recently. “It was learning new footwork, new reads for a lot of the run game and a lot of the pass game too.
“So it was all a new experience that took me a while to learn after being in a system like I am now for pretty much my whole career.”
* * *
A random draft thought: let the Browns and 49ers really fret over who the best quarterback is in this year’s draft class. It’s widely considered a mediocre group, and the Browns and 49ers likely will have the top two picks.
The Bears have four elite defensive prospects to consider: Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, Michigan’s versatile star Jabrill Peppers, Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett and Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey.