Leonard Floyd, the outside linebacker, who was the Bears’ first-round pick in the 2016 Draft, is feeling more comfortable in the Bears defense this offseason than he did as a rookie. On Wednesday, the second day of veteran minicamp, Floyd was passing along instructions to teammates and showing the explosive burst he displayed last season.
“I’m just more used to things,” Floyd said. “Everything was new to me last year. I’m just way more comfortable being out there with the play calls and getting out my assignments to the other guys on the field. I’m just way more comfortable.”
Floyd’s improvement stems from his greater mental understanding of what is expected of him by teammates and coaches. It also originates from how he’s feeling. Various injuries hampered Floyd as a rookie. Those affected him into the offseason and will alter how he approaches his play moving forward.
Floyd started all 12 games he played in as a rookie, and when he was on the field, he played well. His seven sacks were third among rookies, and he also recorded a safety and strip-sack touchdown. Keeping on weight was a challenge for Floyd last season, but he said that he’s stronger this year and feels better practicing in the extreme heat.
Teammates have taken notice that Floyd has improved both the mental and physical part of his game. Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman said that he not only sees growth from Floyd from where he was a year ago, but also there’s been a change from the beginning of offseason conditioning.
“That guy is going to be good for a while,” Freeman said of Floyd’s potential. “That first step as a pass rusher. He really likes to listen. He’s not a prima donna out there. He’s absorbing everything out there still. I ask him questions on how he sees things. Know what I mean? It’s good to have a guy out there who’s so willing to learn and willing to do what it takes to be that big-time player.”
Head coach John Fox said that based on his experience, players take a huge jump forward from their rookie to second seasons. Rookies tend to think, while veterans are able to just react and play. Fox says he believes that the linebacker is ready to take a big step because of where he is both mentally and physically.
Floyd agrees that he’s due for a big year. He said the difference between where he is as a player in 2017 compared to a season ago is, “night and day.”
But Floyd also doesn’t want to put the pressure of expectations on himself. By feeling better both mentally and physically, he is hopeful things will take care of themselves.