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.”