CHICAGO -- Leonard Floyd was nowhere to be found after Sunday’s game, but teammates spoke for him.
Two weeks removed from leaving MetLife Stadium in an ambulance, Floyd returned from a concussion with authority and finished with two sacks (one for a safety) in Chicago’s 26-6 victory over San Francisco.
Despite being inactive for three weeks in 2016, Floyd is second on the team in sacks (7), behind only veteran Willie Young (7.5). Floyd’s seven sacks are third-most by a rookie in franchise history.
“One of my favorite things to watch is how the young boy, Floyd, wants it so bad,” said defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who also registered a pair of sacks against the 49ers. “I mean, just his energy excites me because I remember how I was when I was a rookie, just chomping at the bit and wanting to be in there on every freaking play and trying to make one on every freaking play. Knowing that a part of the game is being able to rush as a unit, sometimes you have to give those positions up, and I think that he’s done a great job of doing that and making sure that he’s rushing within our system. That’s kudos to him.”
Floyd looks a far cry from the player who struggled to stay on the field in training camp. His durability remains an issue, but he has done well enough that the organization can sell him to the fan base.
Floyd, Jordan Howard (117 rushing yards and three touchdowns on Sunday), Cody Whitehair and Eddie Goldman are youngsters from general manager Ryan Pace’s first two draft classes who can be identified as core members for the future. Throw in a couple of key veterans, such as Kyle Long and Danny Trevathan, who are both on injured reserve, and the Bears have built a small foundation.
Chicago is still about a half-dozen prime-time players away from contending for something, but Floyd’s development on defense is particularly important. After striking out the first two years on Kevin White (2015 seventh overall choice), Pace under no circumstances could afford to swing-and-miss on another high choice.
After some early bumps in the road, Floyd looks like a pass-rusher capable of double-digit sacks, if he can play an entire 16-game schedule (still a big if).
“He came back and did what he was supposed to do on Sunday,” Young said. “He did what we expected him to. I couldn’t have been more proud of that guy.”
Aside from Floyd and Young, the Bears have no one on the team with that unique ability to consistently apply pressure. Pernell McPhee used to fall into that category, but knee problems made his participation spotty.
Floyd is not a finished product, and the 49ers are an awful football team, which should temper much of the enthusiasm from Sunday’s win.
But the Bears remain in the business of selling hope for 2017. Floyd is someone who can do that.