Leonard Floyd bounced back from a slow start and was rounding into form before a knee injury wrecked what was turning into a solid second season for the University of Georgia product.
And even though his season was cut short, Floyd found himself in good company among some of the league’s best pass rushers in 2017:
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) February 6, 2018
According to NextGen stats shared by NFL.com expert Matt Harmon, Floyd’s 13.8 pressure rate puts him among the 10 best pass rushers in football. Floyd is keeping good company here with the likes of Von Miller, Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Ryan Kerrigan, and Everson Griffen. And while his 4.5 sacks don’t jump off the screen, Floyd’s pressure rate represents one of those advanced statistics that suggest the traditional metrics will catch up in due time (and with more opportunities).
If Floyd’s numbers are going to take another step in the right direction, though, two things must happen in 2018.
First, he’ll need to get off to a faster start. In eight games played in Weeks 1-4, Floyd has come up with just 1.5 sacks. But in six games played in Weeks 5-8, Floyd has come away with six sacks. Floyd picked up four sacks in a four-game stretch covering Weeks 4, 5, 6, and 7. But in the other six games he played, Floyd was credited with just one-half sack in 344 snaps. If Floyd can find his footing earlier, it’s possible a breakout season in 2018 isn’t all that far-fetched.
The other factor holding back Floyd has been his health.
Two years into his career and Floyd is being labeled “injury prone” in some circles, even though it’s not quite fair just yet. Floyd sat out four games in 2016 and dealt with a calf injury, as well as a concussion. Floyd missed the final four games last season with a knee injury suffered due to some friendly fire from teammate Kyle Fuller.
However, games missed only tells part of the story.
Floyd played on less than 50 percent of the team’s total defensive snaps defensive snaps in 2016 and was never in on at least 90 percent of the snaps in any given game as a rookie. A year later, it was evident that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio trusted Floyd more than he did in Year 1. Floyd had been on the field for more than 90 percent of the team’s defensive snaps prior to suffering a season-ending injury that put him on injured reserve.
The 25-year-old outside linebacker/edge defender was only starting to scratch the surface at the time of his injury, adding respectable pass coverage and flashes of improvement against the run to his pass-rushing excellence. Versatility is key for anyone who plays in Fangio’s defense, as the ever-popular defensive coordinator demands a lot from his players and expects them to be able to defend in every situation. Having that kind of flexibility from players keeps offensive coordinators and players alike on their toes and makes the Bears tougher to scheme against.
If we had it our way, Floyd would be rushing the passer more often. But if Floyd can rush the passer, be a force against the run, and hold his own in pass defense, then the sky truly is the limited for the former top-10 pick.