The Chicago Bears are banking on Leonard Floyd to break out as a superstar pass rusher in 2018, expectations that are reasonable considering his first-round pedigree. But even if Floyd becomes an elite sack artist this season, the Bears' defense won't reach its maximum potential without a complementary player emerging opposite him.
It's still very early in the process of identifying who that guy might be, but after last Thursday's Hall of Fame Game, Isaiah Irving can't be overlooked. Irving is in a training camp battle with veterans Sam Acho and Aaron Lynch as well as rookie Kylie Fitts for reps at outside linebacker.
Irving appeared in seven games last season after starting the year on the practice squad. His season was cut short on December 2, 2017, when he was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Still, Irving's rookie year should be deemed a successful one.
He joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent from San Jose State and had a strong showing in the 2017 preseason. He worked his way to the active roster last October and has gotten off to a fast start this summer.
Irving was the Bears' best pass rusher in the Hall of Fame Game, per Pro Football Focus. His 70.1 pass rush grade edged Fitts' 69.2, both of whom registered a sack. But it was Irving who looked much more explosive off the snap. He flashed a more refined set of pass-rush moves, too.
The fact that Lynch is still sitting out of practice with a hamstring injury has given Irving a great opportunity to prove that he is Chicago's next-best pass rusher. Acho is the most likely candidate to begin the season as a starter, but keep an eye on Irving. If he stacks a few productive preseason games together, especially when opponents' starters are on the field, he could emerge as the guy Vic Fangio pegs as the Robin to Floyd's Batman.