Bears

Bears rookie LB Leonard Floyd breaking out, also finding out “you’re not in Kansas (or Georgia) anymore, Toto”

Bears rookie LB Leonard Floyd breaking out, also finding out “you’re not in Kansas (or Georgia) anymore, Toto”

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Leonard Floyd had used the move countless times before, unleashing speed on an outside pass rush, then countering quickly back underneath, inside a wrong-footed tackle, to a clear path to a quarterback.

On Monday morning the rookie outside linebacker, getting his first work with the No. 1 defense, unleashed his combination speed/change-of-direction move against first-string right tackle Bobby Massie. When he came out of the double move, he found, not a quarterback in his sights, but rather right tackle Bobby Massie in his face.

Several snaps later, Floyd was primed again. He worked his moves on left tackle Charles Leno Jr., and finished the high-speed combination with a spin that left him, yep, stalemated face-to-face with one left tackle Charles Leno Jr.

“I’ve tried some of my college moves,” Floyd said, smiling, “and they don’t work on these guys. I was just focused on why I didn’t get a sack. I’m right now meeting with [outside-linebacker coach] Clint Hurtt to try and come up with some NFL-fit moves.”

The Bears are betting that Floyd comes up with them. Fast, since everything Floyd does, from warmup drills to scrimmage snaps, is fast.

Floyd did get some solid push on a bull rush against Massie, getting underneath the big tackle and using leverage to force the protection back toward quarterback Jay Cutler. He later worked off a stunt with one of his defensive ends and came clean for a simulated sack.

But he has taken stock of why he’s getting handled, when he is, and using it as a guide to things he needs to develop.

“It’s different because guys know their techniques,” Floyd said. “In college some of the offensive linemen didn’t know the proper techniques. All of the guys I’ve gone against here, they’ve got great technique.

“So I’ve really got to work on my technique to beat them or even be even.”

Some days you get the bear and some days the Bear (tackles) get you. The key, however, was that this time Floyd was being sent against the No. 1’s, the starters on the offensive line. And the overall has been extremely positive.

“I think he’s everything that we thought he would be, so very impressed,” said coach John Fox. “He’s learning well; it’s not perfect yet. Like any rookie they’re going to make some errors but I like his athleticism and like what he brings to the table. He’ll be a big part of us.”

Suddenly the “weight” questions around Floyd are disappearing. Floyd has answered some questions about his stoutness against the run. He set an edge Monday against Massie, forcing an outside run back into a tangle of teammates. He later closed down from the outside at full speed to stop running back Jeremy Langford for a small gain through the middle.

Floyd has worked his way into more playing time with steady progress and a work ethic that has impressed coaches, not only with the improved results, but also with an attitude toward not repeating mistakes and learning with every snap taken against NFL-grade competition.

That learning has been aided by a surprise boost.

Floyd understood that the NFL is a world of professional, graded by results, not scholarships. Yet he has found a team within a team in the group of outside linebackers despite the underlying reality that everyone is competing for some of the same jobs.

“Willie [Young] has taken me under his wing, and really, the whole OLB [outside linebacker] room gives me advice and help,” Floyd said. “I didn’t expect it, because it’s the NFL. But I was really happy they’ve taken me up under their wings.”

Young has consistently credited former teammates with helping him learn how to be a professional, on and off the field. Now he is paying it forward.

“I see a lot of similarities in the way that he plays and the way that I play,” Young said. “And I look forward to being able to be a part of his development. Like when I came in, those guys took me up under their wings.

“It didn’t matter, man. We had a brotherhood. And I know that to have a brotherhood, I’ve always been a team player. And to see Leonard come in here and to see the things that he’s doing now, sky’s the limit for him.”

Pro Football Focus ranks Bears' O-line fourth in fewest pressures allowed

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USA TODAY

Pro Football Focus ranks Bears' O-line fourth in fewest pressures allowed

On Saturday, Pro Football Focus released their fewest pressures allowed offensive lines through two weeks of NFL action.

According to the list, the Bears offensive line has given up the fourth-fewest QB pressures (10) through week 2. 

The statistic shows off the improvement of the young Bears O-line, one that only recently came into focus. Franchise quarterback Mitch Trubisky should be able to continue his upwards trajectory this season if that protection persists.

Trubisky has shown off an impressive ability to run, but it won't be needed nearly as much if he gets better at working through his progressions down the field. He has been the recipient of a clean pocket often this season, a situation in which he thrived in last year. 

The Bears would appear to have a relatively easy win on their schedule against the Cardinals on Sunday, but if they can continue to keep pressure off the QB, there is no team that will be able to match their dominance at the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball.

Three keys and prediction: Bears - Cardinals

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USA TODAY

Three keys and prediction: Bears - Cardinals

1. Explosive passing plays. The Seahawks didn’t respect Mitch Trubisky’s ability to do this on Monday night, leading to the dollar store version of the Legion of Boom stacking the box and successful selling out to stop Jordan Howard. Perhaps if Trubisky connected with Allen Robinson on an early deep ball that was picked off, or to a wide-open Gabriel over the middle, Seattle would’ve had to back off from frequently dropping safety Bradley McDougald into the box. 

The point being: The best chance the Bears’ offense has of success, even against a defense that’s allowing a touch over six yards per play, is for Trubisky to link up with a receiver for a big-chunk play. It could be on a downfield throw, or maybe a catch-and-run to Gabriel or Tarik Cohen. Either way, Trubisky and this offense needs to quickly establish that they can make big-chunk plays through the air. Consistency, otherwise, may be hard to come by on Sunday. 

“Just (Matt) Nagy, he’s a great mind and just scripting those things,” Gabriel said. “When the deep ball is there, I’m pretty sure this week we’re going to take it. But at the same time the deep ball, it opens up a lot of things.” 

2. Leonard Floyd winning his one-on-one matchup with left tackle D.J. Humphries. A couple of factors in favor of Floyd: First, he’s no longer wearing a club on his right hand, and his smaller brace allows him use of his fingers. Second, Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries has allowed 10 pressures in 70 pass blocking snaps this year, according to Pro Football Focus. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said it’d be unfair to make any conclusions about Floyd’s season based on two relatively quiet, club-inhibited games. Sunday will be a good opportunity for Floyd to get after Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford, just as he did last year for two sacks (one of which was a safety) when a banged-up Bradford came to Chicago with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5. 

3. Finish in the fourth quarter. The Bears’ defense has dominated for six of the eight quarters it's played this year, but of the 41 points it’s allowed, 35 have come in the final 15 minutes. Granted, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are two of the more clutch late-game quarterbacks in the NFL, while Bradford has been horrendous this year (maybe the fourth quarter quarterback will be rookie Josh Rosen, for all we know). Either way, this could mean a few things: Kyle Fuller making a play on a would-be touchdown — this after getting beat by perfect throws for scores against the Packers and Seahawks — or, like last week, a couple of players coming up with game-sealing interceptions or forced fumbles. 

Prediction: Bears 20, Cardinals 9. The Cardinals’ defense might be better than its early-season numbers suggest, but Arizona’s offense will struggle to move the ball with any consistency against the Bears’ defense. We’ll say the Bears keep everything in front of them and allow only three field goals (hey, Arizona has to kick one at *some* point this year, right?) while Mitch Trubisky leads a pair of touchdown and field goal drives each to pace a comfortable victory.