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With hand injury nearly healed, excuses running out for Leonard Floyd

Time is running out for the ninth pick in the 2016 draft to pick up the slack.

NFL: New England Patriots at Chicago Bears Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Through six games, Chicago Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd has zero sacks and just one quarterback hits.

Entering this season, it seemed as though there were very few defensive players - if any - Who would benefit from the addition of Khalil Mack more than Chicago’s 2016 first-round pick. After two solid yet on spectacular professional seasons, having an elite pass rusher playing alongside him would seemingly give him the chance to wreck havoc with an increase in one-on-one blocking opportunities.

As of late, though, Floyd has failed to do so. A non-factor as a pass rusher, he has done next to nothing to contribute to their defense in said role. While a versatile piece who offers value as a run defender and, excluding Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, as a linebacker who can drop back in coverage, he has failed to become the player that the Bears drafted him to become: an impactful pass rusher.

Granted, Floyd has been dealing with a hand injury throughout the season. The injury forced him to wear a club on his right hand in the first two weeks of the season and a protective brace since. However, the progression of his health has not come with any progression of his play. He is essentially the same player without the club that he was with it, and that is unacceptable for a player in the situation he is in.

Part of Floyd’s ineffectiveness as a pass rusher also ties into how he is used in Chicago’s defense. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has made him drop back in coverage, limiting his opportunities to rush the passer. And while Fangio definitely deserves some blame for Floyd’s slow start, it does not totally excuse the fact that he has yet to tally a sack or put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

When the 2018 season comes to a close, the Bears will have to decide whether or not they will pick up Floyd’s fifth-year option. Seeing as though last year’s price tag for a linebacker taken in the top 10 was just shy of $13 million, he will certainly hit free agency once 2019 comes to an end.

With his hand injury now being very close to completely healed, these next few weeks will be crucial for Floyd to prove his value to the Bears’ defense. It’s clear that he won’t become the player that they wanted him to be, but he still has the chance to prove his worth as a solid starter. If he fails to pick up the slack, though, then Chicago may have to consider looking for a new long-term starter alongside Mack on the edge.