Bears

Concerns about Leonard Floyd maybe shouldn't be so concerning

Concerns about Leonard Floyd maybe shouldn't be so concerning

Bears general manager Ryan Pace traded up and out of the No. 11 pick in last month’s NFL draft and into, in some opinions, a supposed problem in the person of pass rusher Leonard Floyd. Multiple problems, actually, considering all the things “wrong” with Floyd.

Fortunately for the Bears, all of these flaws come with major qualifiers – “yeah, but…” things that render those flaws suspect at least, moot at best. And the yeah-but’s come, not from scouting reports, projections or other suppositions, but from the NFL itself.

Where’s the sack production?

Floyd put up just 4.5 sacks for Georgia last season, hardly the kind of numbers general managers trade up to get. Floyd finished his three Georgia seasons with 17 total sacks – the same total Von Miller posted in his junior season alone at Texas A&M on his way to being John Fox’s first draft choice (2011) in Denver.

“He’s shown that he’s a good pass rusher in college,” insisted defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “He just doesn’t have the numbers to support that on a piece of paper. But a lot of that is due to the way [Georgia coaches] used him, too.”

Fangio was asked during this weekend’s rookie minicamp if he had ever coached anyone who hadn’t been an elite college pass rusher but became one in the NFL. Fangio said nobody came to mind, a concerning comment from one of the NFL’s top defensive coaches and one who’d coached rush-linebacker Aldon Smith as a rookie.

Yeah, but…

The fact is that more than a few of the NFL’s elite pass rushers only achieved “elite” status when they reached the NFL level. Surprisingly, Fangio was involved with one prominent example: Smith.

In one of the NFL’s greatest examples of immediate impact, Fangio was San Francisco defensive coordinator when the 49ers drafted Smith No. 7 overall in the 2011 draft. Smith’s career has derailed after an impressive start that saw him compile 42 sacks over his first 43 games – effectively one per game.

This after a final Missouri season that produced six sacks – decent but not spectacular for the player who then became the fastest player in NFL history to register 30 career sacks.

Jason Pierre-Paul totaled 6.5 sacks for the 13 games of his final season at South Florida: .5 sacks per game. When he broke into the New York Giants’ starting lineup his second season (2011), he more than doubled that with 16.5 sacks over 16 starts: 1.03 sacks per game. Injuries have undercut him but when he managed 16 starts in 2014, he totaled 12.5 sacks: .78 per game, still half-again his college rate.

J.J. Watt, taken in the No. 11 slot by Houston in his draft, had 11.5 sacks in the 26 games of his two defensive-end seasons at Wisconsin: a rate of .44 sacks per game, or one every 2.26 games. In the NFL Watt has amassed 74.5 sacks in 80 games: a rate of .93 sacks per game, or one every 1.07 games.

The kid is too skinny

Legendary New York Giants general manager George Young once dubbed the first 15 picks of the draft as "the Dance of the Elephants," because of the conventional wisdom of drafting size for the NFL game. The perceived problem with the Bears' drafting of Floyd is that they traded up within that top 15 and took perhaps the lightest-weight for his NFL position. No. 4 overall pick and running back Ezekiel Elliott, for instance, weighs 225 pounds but has it on a 6-foot frame, while Floyd's 240 stretches over six more inches of altitude.

No surprise then that the topic de jour with Floyd is his weight, which the Bears said would be in the 240’s and Fangio said would be something like 230-235. Clearly not big enough at the NFL level, or at least the NFL of George Young.

Plus, he has so much trouble keeping weight on naturally that the Bears have cooked up a reminder-alarm program that uses his cell phone to prod him to eat.

Yeah, but…

Von Miller was 245 pounds coming out of Texas A&M, generously listed at 250 now. Plus, he’s a smurf at 6-3, nowhere near big enough to heft a Super Bowl MVP trophy… oh, wait, never mind.

Kalil Mack (15 sacks) finished second to Watt last season. At 6-3, 247 pounds.

For historical sake: When Richard Dent came to the Bears in the 1983 draft, he was a puny 228 pounds, principally because of dental problems that made eating a miserable experience. The Bears invested in corrective dental work, Dent at 6-5 went up to 265 pounds and then on to Canton and the Hall of Fame.

What Dent learned was leverage, how to keep his body at arm’s length and odd angles from blockers, and the ability to keep tackles from getting good sets and squaring up with him. The success or failure of Floyd projects to trace to far more than his weight.

“[Floyd] has got length, so that can help him ward off people from getting into his body,” Fangio said. “He’s gonna have to be quick and sudden with his take-on. He’s not going to be able to wrestle people as much.

“But so much of whether you win or lose on a block happens early in the down; it doesn’t happen late in the down. We’re just going to have to make sure he’s technique sound and being quick and explosive and decisive with his take-on.”

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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USA TODAY

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

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Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

On Thursday, Brian Baldinger released another video clip on Twitter for his #BaldysBreakdowns series, this one praising the recent play from Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.

Baldinger states that Trubisky is "making some kind of jump", referring to how impressed he was with Trubisky's play when compared to his rookie season. 

In the video Baldinger explains in the video how you expect franchise QBs to make a big leap from year one to year two, and a big part of that leap for Trubisky is being unafraid to make aggressive throws downfield.

Baldinger highlighted a play where Trubisky hit Taylor Gabriel 47-yards down the field, choosing to trust his wideout after he hit him with perfect ball placement despite tight coverage. He continued this theme later on in the video, showing Trubisky's TD strike to Allen Robinson, which was whipped right past a Dolphins defender. 

But Baldinger's video wasn't exclusively compliments for Trubisky. He discussed Tarik Cohen's effectiveness as a pass-catcher, saying that you "can't cover him" and comparing him to a Ferrari with his ability to go from first to fifth gear "about as fast as anybody."

He ended his video by showing Trubisky punishing the Dolphins for a blown coverage, hitting rookie Anthony Miller in stride for a 29-yard TD. Baldinger's point in including this clip was to show Trubisky's improved recognition, as he may not have spotted the blown coverage last year. Noticing when and how to take advantage of defensive sloppiness is one of the many things that seperate a "franchise QB" from a stopgap, and Trubisky is trending in the right direction. 

If Baldinger's breakdown is any indication, we should expect Trubisky to keep his incredible momentum rolling when the Bears take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. New England is 3rd worst in the league in passing TDs allowed, giving up 15 scores through the air in six games.