Leonard Floyd had two sacks in his 2019 debut, yet hasn’t tallied one since. But the Bears disagree with the idea of Floyd pulling a disappearing act over his last four games.
“I don’t think saying he had two sacks in the first game and has done nothing since is a fair assessment of what he’s done,” outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. “… Leonard Floyd had done a great job of setting edges, he’s done a great job of affecting the passing game in coverage, he’s done a great job of knocking guys back into the launch point. We’ve just gotta figure out ways to get him clear and get him to finish as a rusher. And he’s completely focused and intent on doing that. He’s the right guy for it.”
Floyd indeed has made a positive impact since the Green Bay game in terms of generating pressures (nine) and getting run stops (seven), per Pro Football Focus. The Bears trust him to hold his own in coverage, too, having him drop back on 22 percent of his snaps on passing plays.
This is where internal expectations for Floyd may not match the external ones from folks wondering why a player drafted ninth overall hasn’t had more than seven sacks in a season yet, and only has 17 1/2 sacks in 43 career games. Floyd’s sack total declined each of his first three years in the NFL; he only needs 4 1/2 sacks this year to change that, but it’s a low bar to clear.
It’s worth noting Floyd’s 17 1/2 sacks are fifth-most among first-round picks since 2016, behind Joey Bosa (31 1/2), Myles Garrett (29 1/2), DeForest Buckner (24) and T.J. Watt (24). But it’s also worth noting that 71 players have had more sacks than Floyd’s 10 1/2 since the start of the 2017 season.
Floyd looked to have the makings of a breakout season after that two-sack game against the Packers given he didn’t get his second sack of 2018 until Week 13, and didn’t hit that mark until Week 5 of the 2017 season. The hope was a fast start would spark Floyd to the kind of game-wrecking season worthy of a No. 9 overall pick, right?
That hasn’t happened. Floyd ranks 97th in Pro Football Focus’ pass rushing productivity metric, behind guys like ex-Bear Pernell McPhee and current Bear Aaron Lynch.
So at this point in Floyd’s fourth season as a pro, it’s time for outside expectations to meet internal expectations for him.
It’s a shift that can certainly feel disappointing. But the Bears would argue Floyd’s contributions are highly valuable given his ability to do so many different things, from stopping the run to dropping into coverage to affecting the pocket even if he doesn’t get a sack. He’s just not getting the one stat to which everyone pays attention.
“He’s still impacting the game,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “… The sacks or whatever, those haven’t been there of late. He’s great. He plays extremely hard. He does his job every single down. That’ll come. So he’s not going to press. I’ve got to do a better job of trying to get those guys in position to make those plays.”
The lack of sacks aren’t anything new for Floyd, too. He had 17 in three years at Georgia, and only had 4 1/2 his final season in Athens. And what general manager Ryan Pace said in 2016 after drafting Floyd sounds a lot like what Monachino and Pagano are saying about him now.
“You know when you watch the tape: They move him all over,” Pace said at the time. “He’s such a versatile athlete, so he's playing inside linebacker one snap and the next snap he’s in nickel running down the field with a slot receiver. And then he’s rushing. You see him at all these different positions.
“… You don’t see guys getting into him. Guys that I think struggle against the run, they let offensive linemen get into their chest and get engulfed by blocks. He doesn’t do that. He plays with such great separation, he keeps that from happening.”
The ability to ask him to do any task necessary in coverage. The ability to stop the run. These are what the Bears want to get out of Floyd, and are getting out of Floyd, in 2019. It may not be what those outside Halas Hall hoped for, and to an extent, it may not be what those inside the facility wanted, either. Teams usually trade up for powerful weapons, not Swiss army knives.
This deep into Floyd’s NFL career, he is what he is. The double-digit sack breakout probably isn’t coming.
But the belief in him from those inside Halas Hall isn’t going away, either.