With training camp starting later this month, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ units heading into Bourbonnais. Today’s group: The linebacking corps.
1. Can Floyd be Beasley 2.0?
At this time a year ago, Falcons fans were anxious that picking Vic Beasley eighth overall in 2015 was a mistake after a four-sack rookie season. Fifteen-and-a-half sacks later on Dan Quinn’s young, fast defense that improved as the season went on, they’re claiming they believed in him all along. There seems to be less doubt about the ninth overall pick from 2016 among Bears fans, but the anxiousness now revolves around Leonard Floyd’s ability to stay healthy for a full season after various aches and pains, topped off by two concussions in five weeks, from which he didn’t fully recover until February.
With approximately eight to 10 additional pounds on his frame, the first step is getting through Bourbonnais and three preseason games. If he can pull it off and miss minimal time, Beasley’s year two numbers might be a bit much, but there’s no reason to think Floyd can’t at least approach it.
“It’s like night and day compared to last season,” said Floyd. “I’m doing a much better job this year with my weight compared to last year. I came in way, way lighter than I did this year.”
“It slows down, they understand it, they’re not thinking, they’re reacting,” said John Fox about the difference between a player’s rookie and sophomore season. “I expect that, and I’ve seen it already, even in the offseason. He’s a really good talent. I’d rather understate and let him over-produce, but both mentally and physically, he’s gonna take a step.”
[3 burning questions: Defensive line]
2. How much Pernell pacing in practice?
It’s an important year for Ryan Pace’s first big personnel decision. It’s become clear the Ravens chose not to re-sign Pernell McPhee two years ago because of fears about the wear and tear on his legs at the weight he was at. The first half of his first season, McPhee lived up to billing. Since then? Five sacks in 16 games. He seems now to be in the 270-pound range after starting his Bears career in the 280/285-pound range. He’s also coming off labrum surgery, an injury that slowed him once he finally came off the PUP list last season. The important thing will be having him full strength for the season-opening Murderer’s Row in a 19-day span of Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Green Bay.
“Dominate and destroy,” were the words that only McPhee can come up with when asked about the pass rush ceiling for the outside linebackers. “Every opponent that we face, and showing the world why we’ve got these guys in the room. That’s my focus. That’s what I wanna do and I think what we’re gonna do.”
3. “Kwit” a quick study?
It would be shocking if inside linebacker Danny Trevathan doesn’t begin the season on the same Physically Unable to Perform list McPhee started on a year ago after tearing the patellar tendon in his knee in November. Nick Kwiatkowski missed almost all of his rookie preseason with a hamstring pull, but started the last six weeks between Trevathan’s injury and Jerrell Freeman’s suspension. And he didn’t look overwhelmed. Now, potentially alongside Freeman’s standout play and guidance, Kwiatkowski must be ready to slide in and take the next step in a way Fox expressed confidence in all the second-year players.
“He’s trying to absorb a lot of things, trying to get his footwork better, his pass rush better, just like all of us strive to every day,” said Freeman.