Cup of Joe: NFL, Leonard Floyd has arrived

Cup of Joe: NFL, Leonard Floyd has arrived
Chicago Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (94) celebrates after bringing down Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) during the first half on Monday, Oct. 31, 2016 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. (Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

Written by Joe Tidei/Special to Bears Backer

The last 48 hours for the Bears have been an absolute nightmare. An embarrassing performance in Tampa Bay, Alshon Jeffery suspended 4 games for a PED violation and Kyle Long ruled out for the season so I figured it would be good to shine a bit of light on the darkness.

That light? Leonard Floyd.

I’m an unapologetic Floyd fanboy and proud of it. I believed he would be a better pro player than college because he possessed an upside that hadn’t been tapped into at Georgia.

The start of his season was rocky. We saw flashes in the opener against Houston, but in the next five games he was in over his head. He was frequently out of position and over matched. Some of that had to do with Floyd being banged up, but he was also hesitant and lacked aggressiveness.

To put it simply; he looked like a rookie. There are always learning curves with young players and Floyd is no different. They go through an adjustment period as they experience a game much faster, more physical and more mentally challenging in college.

I knew Floyd would go through this, it was just a matter of how long it would last. If the last month is any indication, the light is coming on and we’re starting to see how good he can be.

Over his last three games, here’s Floyd’s stat line: 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble (he brought back for a touchdown), one pass deflection and 10 tackles. He has also drawn holding penalties and generated consistent pressure.

The key with young players is stringing together games. Being someone coaches can count on every week. Floyd is starting to become that player halfway through his first season.

I’m not putting the cart before the horse here. He still has a ways to go and is far from a finished product. Defensive coordinators will start game scheming against Floyd so there will be more bumps in the road. He’ll need to learn and adjust.

After the game on Sunday, I was trying to look for some positives, which was pretty damn difficult considering the abomination we all witnessed. Floyd was one of those positives.

He was all over the field making plays. He also left opportunities out there, including in the third quarter where he missed the sack on Jameis Winston that led to a huge completion for the Buccaneers.

Floyd needs to work on finishing, closing down space with patience and taking better angles. He gets too excited and over pursues. He has the ability to react and recover quickly.

Floyd has a special blend of athleticism and skill, but he’s still pretty raw and definitely needs more polish, which comes with experience. He’ll develop some pass rush moves and learn how to better leverage his height/bend. When that happens, you’re looking at a superstar.

This isn’t a puff piece. It’s an I TOLD YOU SO and no, I won’t be humble about it because I knew it the first time I saw his tape.

Those who incorrectly evaluated Floyd failed to get past the surface. They saw a long, lanky, athletic 24-year old who resembled more of a wide receiver than an edge rusher. A prospect who also didn’t have high level production in college.

They missed his instincts, disruptive ability, intelligence and skill. They underestimated his play strength, toughness and versatility. They incorrectly (maybe lazily) stereotyped him into Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo because possessed similar athleticism and physical build.

Traits are more important than measurables. Ability is more important than production. Floyd rises to challenges and elevates his game. Throw him into the fire and he comes out stronger.

For anyone who questioned Ryan Pace’s decision to trade up for Floyd, I think you have your answer and it feels awesome to be right.

Author’s note: Joe is an associate producer at CSN Chicago. Give him a follow on Twitter @Joe_Tidei. He talks Chicago sports all day every day.

Make sure to follow @Bearsbacker on Twitter and Facebook for up to the minute news about the Chicago Bears.

Filed under: Bears News

Tags: Joe Tidei, Leonard Floyd

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