Bears

Bears LB coach says Leonard Floyd is doing everything team has asked of him

Bears LB coach says Leonard Floyd is doing everything team has asked of him

Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd's success will be defined by how many sacks he records each year. Maybe it's unfair to judge Floyd based on one statistic, but considering Chicago's draft investment in him (ninth overall pick in 2016), sacks -- and a lot of them -- were the expectation.

Floyd's most productive season as a pass rusher came in his rookie year when he totaled 7.5 sacks. He's managed just 8.5, total, over the last two years (26 total games). It's been more of the same from him in 2019, as he has just three sacks entering Week 15's game against the Packers.

The Bears picked up Floyd's fifth-year option last offseason, which means his cap number will jump from just over $5 million this season to more than $13 million in 2020. It's a hefty price to pay for a player who doesn't get to the quarterback, but linebackers coach Ted Monachino said this week that no player on Chicago's roster can do what Floyd does for the defense.

“There’s only one guy in our building that can do the job that Leonard is asked to do, and that’s Leonard Floyd,” Monachino said. “He’s playing at as high a level as I’ve ever had a ‘Sam’ [linebacker] play. I couldn’t ask any more of him.

“He wears a lot of hats throughout the game. He’s in coverage in base. He’s in coverage in sub. He’s a rusher in base. He’s a rusher in sub. He does it all for us. I do wish for him, and I think it would help all of us if he got some sacks, and we didn’t have to answer the same question once a month. But I do believe he’s playing at as high a level as any ‘Sam’ in our league.”

Monachino's assessment of Floyd's game is certainly fair, but it still doesn't change the fact that he hasn't become the kind of player the Bears were envisioning back in 2016. He was supposed to be John Fox and Vic Fangio's 'Von Miller.'

Instead, Floyd's Pro Football Focus pass-rushing grade ranks 89th among edge defenders in 2019. 

The Bears have the option of rescinding Floyd's fifth-year option this offseason, and with Chicago's tight salary-cap situation, it's a choice they may be forced to make. 

But Floyd has a chance to make a strong final impression on GM Ryan Pace over the final three games of this season, and with the Packers up next, there's a chance he'll do just that. Of his 18 career sacks, 7.5 have come against Green Bay.

"I feel great in the position I’m in," Floyd said this week. "I’m playing for a great organization. I got a lot more left in me.”

The Bears need Floyd to be their 'Von Miller' on Sunday, and for the rest of the season, to turn their near-impossible quest for the playoffs into reality.

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Bears show interest in Tulsa pass rusher Trevis Gipson

Bears show interest in Tulsa pass rusher Trevis Gipson

It's early (extremely early) in the 2020 NFL Draft process, and the Bears' team needs between now and when their first pick (No. 43 overall) is on the clock are certain to change. The general consensus right now is that offensive line, tight end and quarterback will be early draft targets, but edge rusher can't be overlooked.

Leonard Floyd's failure to emerge as the pass rusher the Bears need to complement Khalil Mack is a bigger problem than GM Ryan Pace or coach Matt Nagy want to admit. In fact, Floyd's ineffective style of play could cost Chicago a chance at becoming a truly elite defense and potentially limit the astronomical upside Mack has as a generational talent.

If the Bears decide to pull the fifth-year option from Floyd, they'll have no choice but to attack the position early in the 2020 draft. It appears like they're doing their homework for that scenario, too.

Bears scouts met with Tulsa edge rusher Trevis Gipson at length following Wednesday's Senior Bowl practice, an indication that the position is at least high enough on their wish list that extensive homework on pass rushers is being done.

Gipson helped his draft stock at the Senior Bowl and was an early winner among edge rushers at the game. His practice reps confirmed his tape; the dude knows how to get to the quarterback. He had eight sacks in 2019 and plays with a high-energy style that's certain to entice Chicago's coaching staff. He isn't an elite athlete, but he has an appealing frame (34-inch arms) and powerful hands.

Gipson began the week as a late-Day-3 prospect. He helped his stock and may have jumped a round or two along the way.

Bears' rookie class ranked 8th-best in NFL

Bears' rookie class ranked 8th-best in NFL

The Bears didn't have much of a rookie class in 2019. Last April's draft produced just five picks, two of which didn't appear in a regular-season game for the Bears.

But the production of running back David Montgomery was enough to carry the rookie class to a top-10 ranking, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Bears checked-in at eighth.

The Bears have a strange class. They had only five picks, none before Round 3, with three of those five selections coming after Round 6. As a result, their expected return was low. Running back David Montgomery was really the only Bears' rookie to play significant snaps, and he managed to provide enough return from his third-round selection to land them at No. 8.

It's pretty remarkable that Chicago's 2019 rookie class — essentially, Montgomery — garnered this much respect from PFF. Wide receiver Riley Ridley showed signs of life late in the season and cornerback Duke Shelley will be given an opportunity to carve out a role on defense next season, but with running back Kerrith Whyte, Jr. and cornerback Stephen Denmark making no impact whatsoever (Whyte is no longer with the team), the 2019 class won't be remembered as one that laid a championship foundation in Chicago.

Sure, Montgomery has a chance to become one of the NFL's more talented starting running backs (he ended his rookie season with 889 yards and six touchdowns), but if Ridley and Shelley don't turn into legitimate contributors in 2020 or 2021, the class will go down as an epic failure for GM Ryan Pace.

Remember: The Bears didn't have a first-round pick because of the trade for outside linebacker Khalil Mack. That's a win for Pace, but it doesn't change the fact that he had five selections at his disposal and ended up with what appears to be just one impact player after their rookie seasons.