The Chicago Bears defense has been more good than bad to start the year, but if it’s going to take the next step against another elite quarterback, Leonard Floyd needs to take his game to another level.
Floyd has yet to record a sack in 2017 despite playing in 87.6 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. Pro Football Focus has given Floyd a 39.5 overall grade, which ranks 95th among the site’s 117 qualifying edge rushers. Further, his 37.1 grade as a pass rusher ranks as the lowest among the site’s qualifiers this year. Yikes.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio might have unknowingly offered up a reason while meeting with the media on Tuesday:
Vic said they dropped Leonard Floyd in coverage a lot in Weeks 1 and 3, but “I do think he can rush better with the opportunities he’s had."
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) September 26, 2017
Floyd hasn’t spent much time rushing the passer. Of the 170 snaps Floyd has played in 2017, 13.5 percent have come in coverage and 48.8 percent have come in situations in which he isn’t rushing the passer. As a point of comparison, Denver’s Von Miller rushes the passer on 68.3 percent of his snaps, Oakland’s Khalil Mack rushes the passer on 58.5 percent of his snaps.
Only five edge rushers have played more coverage snaps than Floyd, but it hasn’t stopped Justin Houston of the Chiefs and John Simon of the Colts from posting above average grades as edge rushers. However, Floyd isn’t alone in seeing a high number of coverage snaps while also seeing poor grades as a pass rusher. Maybe there is something to Floyd being out of his element. If there is, he’ll need to work through it quickly because edge defenders in Fangio’s defense must prove to be versatile.
Clearly, Floyd needs to make an adjustment … and soon. Defensive end Akiem Hicks is the only Bears defensive player with more than three quarterback hits and the defense needs to get more pressure to take some of the weight off the shoulders of a short-handed secondary.
For what it’s worth, Floyd had his coming-out party in a Week 7 loss against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. That’s when Floyd picked up two sacks, forced a fumble, recovered it, and returned it for the Bears’ only touchdown in an otherwise lopsided Green Bay win. The sack, strip, recovery, and score against Aaron Rodgers sparked a five-game stretch in which Floyd notched 6.5 sacks and forced a safety.
That kind of run hasn’t been seen since, but there’s no better time to get on that kind of roll than Thursday against the Packers.