Leonard Floyd‘s injury might not keep him out for Week 1, but it should scare the Chicago Bears into taking action to bolster the outside linebacker position.
The moment Chicago Bears fans got a glimpse of Leonard Floyd leaving Saturday’s preseason game with a hand injury, Bears fans started seeing the 2018 NFL season flash before their eyes.
And who can blame them? By now, the weakness of the Bears’ outside linebacker group depth-wise is well-documented. They’re already relying on Sam Acho to hold down the other starting spot opposite Floyd. If they lost him for any extended time …
As it turns out, Floyd has, in fact, been diagnosed with fractures in the index and middle fingers of his right hand and had surgery to repair them on Sunday.
But, as Matt Nagy remarked to reporters, Floyd should be available to play Week 1. He’ll have to play through some pain, but just having him on the field will be a clear positive for the Bears.
Coach Nagy confirms Leonard Floyd has a fracture in his right hand, had a successful surgery yesterday and is optimistic he could play through it Week 1.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) August 20, 2018
— David J. Chao, MD (@ProFootballDoc) August 20, 2018
So, crisis averted, right?
Not so fast. We’ve seen this movie before.
Just last season, after injuries torpedoed Cameron Meredith’s and Kevin White’s 2017 campaigns, the Chicago Bears actually started Tre McBride and Tanner Gentry at wide receiver in regular season games. Kendall Wright led the team with a mammoth 614 receiving yards.
Now, Ryan Pace and the Bears are about to do it again with their outside linebackers, another key position group. Glutton for punishment, I guess.
On one hand, neither the draft nor free agency offered many compelling top-flight options. In particular, I see no problem with the Bears’ draft. As it stands, Roquan Smith, James Daniels, and Anthony Miller will likely all be starting at their respective positions at least by Week 2, and Bilal Nichols looks like a really good rotational piece on the defensive front.
And it’s not as if the Bears absolutely nothing to address this position, though one can question the efficacy of their moves.
Pace did take a shot at the oft-injured but intriguing pass rusher Kylie Fitts in the sixth round of the NFL Draft and signed Aaron Lynch, who posted 14 sacks in his first two NFL seasons but has struggled with injuries since, to a one-year deal. Lynch specifically was projected to be a starter next to Floyd and had played under Vic Fangio as a rookie, while Fitts was viewed as a situational third-down pass rusher.
But, as many of the Bears’ “best-laid” plans do, this one went up in smoke almost from the jump.
— Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. (@wiltfongjr) August 19, 2018
Lynch made it through one practice before tweaking his hamstring and hasn’t touched the field since. And after showing some promise during Week 1 of the preseason, Fitts has been nonexistent. He lacks refinement as a pass rusher and has no feel for coverage, which teams have exploited a few times.
So now, we’re back to square one, with Floyd and Acho starting and the vastly unproven Isaiah Irving and Fitts in the wings as the primary backups. And though they still have time to make adjustments to the position, they’ve yet to do so.
How has that gone so far? Let’s put it this way: aside from Floyd, a guy named Kasim Edebali has looked like the best outside linebacker in camp, and he’s a long shot to even make the team. And we don’t even know if Lynch is still good or not because he hasn’t practiced in weeks.
With Leonard Floyd now sidelined, the Bears are awaiting the return of Aaron Lynch (hamstring) at outside linebacker. Said Matt Nagy: "We feel good with where he's at. … He's getting closer and closer by the day."
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) August 20, 2018
The Bears might be a year away from truly competing for the NFC North title and making a meaningful postseason push, but Pace cannot afford to field another five-to-six-win football team. Contract extension or not, this is a results-based business, and it’s past time to see some results. And another year of failure to address an important position group — receiver last year and outside linebacker this year — could very well blow up in his face.
I’m not demanding that the Chicago Bears trade for Khalil Mack (though if there’s ever a good time to go for it, it’s now … they have the cap space and have acquired a good bit of talent to build with already) or Chandler Jones (if he were even on the trading block).
But at the very least, the Bears now have absolutely no choice by to shop for free agent bodies for camp.
As much as they probably wanted to move on from Lamarr Houston, you almost have to think about giving him a call at this point.
Can Junior Galette still move? Bring him in and work him out.
You do whatever you need to do to find more talent at the edge position. Because as of right now, the Chicago Bears are one significant Leonard Floyd injury away from their defense, and possibly this team’s record, being a potentially unmitigated disaster. And we really don’t need to see this happen again.
Follow Khari Thompson on Twitter — Feature Photo Credit: Photo: Chicago Tribune