If things go right, it could prove to be a launching point for a breakout season for the 2016 first-round draft pick. Last year Floyd lined up opposite All-Pro Khalil Mack but collected only four sacks, in part because a hand injury hampered him the first half of the season.
The Bears didn't hesitate in picking up the fifth-year option in Floyd's contract — for $13.22 million in 2020 — and they will gladly pay him that if he emerges as a disruptive force on the outside. Right now, that option is guaranteed for injury only and he is going to have to earn it with his performance in 2019.
He was recovering from knee surgery last offseason and didn't get on the field until training camp, when he was operating with a knee brace. A healthy offseason has been the key. The Bears believe Floyd is a star waiting to happen, especially with Mack certain to attract so much attention on the other side. They're counting on new outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino, who tutored Terrell Suggs at Arizona State and with the Ravens, to help unlock that potential.
Floyd has been working to create a better "rush plan" for getting to the quarterback with effective counter measures to use off his natural gift of speed and explosiveness. Better counters can turn pressures into sacks, or better yet strip-sacks, and rushes that were once stymied can become pressures. It's about the little things in Monachino's estimation.
"As he gets better at one or two things, his numbers will go up," Monachino said. "(What) may happen first are the effective rushes, right? He may affect the quarterback. He may affect the launch point. He may move a guy off the spot. But the more of those that come along, the more productive rushes he's going to have. The more he's going to get home and finish. Right now we're focused on just a couple of things with Leonard. And it's not because he can't handle more. It's because we want to build his toolbox in a way that, 'This is my go-to, and this is the counter off of it.'"
So Floyd spent time on the practice field working on his hand placement. He can be a violent rusher if he attacks the right spot on the offensive lineman. Hit the wrong spot and a bigger, stronger offensive tackle is going to wall him off. Balance and footwork are equally important parts of the equation. He has always played with good pad level for being tall and rangy.
"Being violent and just going out with a mindset of getting to the quarterback," said Floyd, who had a career-high seven sacks as a rookie. "I have to sharpen my tools. It's been very different because I have been able to train and do all of the things with no limitations this spring.
"I believe I was playing my best football during the second half of last year after I really got over my hand injury. I felt like I was playing a lot better and I am looking forward to this year and just building off of that."
"If you put him in a phone booth against a big offensive tackle, yes, power and strength is a problem," Monachino said. "But his length and his explosiveness in a short space, they negate all of that other disadvantage. As a power rusher at the top of the pocket, I don't think he's going to have any problem. There are a couple things I believe in coaching pass rushers. Pass rush is about effort and violence. That's what it's about. It's all about how we finish at the top of the pocket. Because guys don't run around other players in this league. Players are too good. So we've got to get him really good at how is he going to clear? And how is he going to finish?"
Based on how Floyd moved in the new defense being installed by coordinator Chuck Pagano, the belief is he could be ready to do more than flash on occasion, like he did in Week 15 when he had two sacks against the Packers. Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan went so far as to suggest Floyd could command a double team, which seems crazy if that means Mack would be solo blocked on the other side. That's how good Floyd was this spring.
"I don't know many linemen you got, but you better put some more on there because he's been putting his best foot forward," Trevathan said. "He's been working his tail off and he's been learning this defense in and out. I've been seeing him be more explosive, putting on a little more weight, a lot stronger, a lot more fundamentally sound and he appreciates each day and he's getting the most out of it.
The work will pick up again in training camp. Floyd has done a good job of getting from A to B in his pass rush and he needs to consistently get to C, which will help him arrive at QB.
Monachino credited Floyd for playing with great pad level despite his length.
"He can be special," Monachino said. "So those are the things we're going to work with him. How do I get from Point B to Point C where those become productive rushes? I think we've got a chance. He's different."
If will be fascinating to see if things come together for Floyd. It's easy to envision an already excellent defense getting even better. The opener with the Packers on Sept. 5 is intriguing as Floyd has always played his best ball against Green Bay. Consider that 5 1/2 of his 13 1/2 career sacks have come in the rivalry along with a forced fumble, fumble recovery and a touchdown.
We'll see if the rush plan comes to fruition.