Chicago Bears: How Leonard Floyd will thrive in Pagano’s defense

Chicago Bears (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

In a critical year for Chicago Bears OLB Leonard Floyd, how will he benefit from a new defensive scheme?

At the beginning of last month, the Chicago Bears exercised the fifth-year option on Leonard Floyd, the former No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. In doing so, the team has ensured he will be with them for the next two seasons. However, it is this coming year that will prove critical in determining his longer-term future with the organization.

An athletic freak, the Bears have likely hoped for — and even expected — more production from Floyd in his first three years. In fairness, some of the lack of production has been attributable to things that are beyond his control.

First, injuries have hampered his growth. He suffered a pretty nasty leg injury in November of 2017 and was dealing with a cast on his hand for the beginning of 2018. Second, the manner in which he was utilized, to some extent, in Vic Fangio’s defense also limited his production. Often times, often to the chagrin of many fans, Fangio had Floyd drop in coverage. Maybe it was to take advantage of his incredible athleticism, or maybe it was even to mask some of his weaknesses as a pass rusher.

Either way, he did not produce the kind of “pass rusher” numbers (sacks and pressures) that you might expect out of the top-ten pick. However, that all could and likely will change this season as Floyd gets accustomed to Chuck Pagano’s defense.

So how can we expect Floyd to benefit out of Pagano’s defensive philosophy? First, don’t expect to see Floyd in coverage as much. From the comments this pre-season, it appears they are focusing their efforts on making him a better pass-rusher.

His new outside linebackers coach, Ted Monachino, thinks he can be special and is honing in on Floyd’s technique as a pass rusher. In fact, Monachino went so far as to say that Floyd has more natural pass rushing ability than Khalil Mack. He then admitted Mack is obviously the better pass rusher, which is indisputable, but if Floyd has more natural ability, then what is holding him back from being the better rusher? You guessed it — his technique.

If the Bears feel they have a more talented rusher than Mack and can unlock that potential by refining his technique, they are not going to waste that impact by having him cover running backs out of the flat.

Moreover, Pagano’s reputation is as an aggressive defensive coordinator, especially when he has the talent to back it up. In 2011 with the Baltimore Ravens, his only other season as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, the team blitzed 36.4 percent of the time, good for ninth-most in the league. Obviously, that team boasted immense talents like Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Ed Reed, but the Bears also have immensely talented players at every level of the defense.

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What Pagano has shown is when he has the horses, he likes to run his race, which is as an aggressive coordinator who likes to bring the pressure, or as he has previously put it, “wreak havoc.” As the defense starts incorporating his system, a more aggressive Floyd with improved technique could experience a huge increase in production. He could also be an absolute nightmare for opposing offensive lines.