Being without Pernell McPhee (knee) left the Bears without their best pass rusher. Then again, Lamarr Houston has looked like the Bears’ best pass rusher for the last two games.
Houston was the decisive rushman last Monday in San Diego with two fourth-quarter sacks. On Sunday, again in the fourth quarter, Houston beat St. Louis left tackle Greg Robinson with a pure speed rush around the edge and sacked quarterback Nick Foles to create a fourth-and-long that the Rams failed to convert.
Willie Young got early pressure on Foles and tripped up Todd Gurley to save a potential big run in the red zone in the first half when the game was still in the balance. Young then delivered the coup de grace with an interception of a Foles pass, two snaps after he was flagged for roughing the passer.
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Young, still adjusting to outside linebacker after a career at defensive end, went 39 yards with his first interception since college.
“Anytime a defensive lineman gets a ball in his hands and some green grass in front of him, he’s not taking a knee,” Young said, laughing. “Those are few and far between.”
In his first game back after three missed because of a knee injury, Shea McClellin was active early in both blitzing and run fills, topped by his strip of the football from Tre Mason late in the first quarter to give the Bears offense the ball at the St. Louis 19.
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“It was a little rough at first,” said McClellin, who led the Bears with 8 tackles, according to preliminary stats. “But after that it felt pretty good.”
McClellin also was a major component in the overall defense taking the game away from Rams running back Todd Gurley. “[You have to] make sure he doesn’t hit those cutbacks and seams,” McClellin said. “Everyone did a great job of being in position.”
Christian Jones’ delayed blitz on a second-and-long in the second quarter forced a throwaway with a hit Nick Foles despite a receiver (Tavon Austin) open in the secondary. Jonathan Anderson (3 tackles) was able to stop a third-down conversion in the fourth quarter, in solo coverage on Tre Mason.
Moon's Grade: A
Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21.
Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.
All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.
The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players.
The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.
The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.
Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons.
Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.
Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.
CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.
The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.
It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.
We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.