“The sky is the limit for Leonard Floyd,” Pace said. “His athleticism, his quickness, he’s 100 miles per hour to the ball every play. He’s just refining his technique as a pass rusher, so his hand use is going to get better. But he has some special things that we saw in the draft that you can’t coach. He’s the right kind of person, too. He’s highly intelligent, so we can move him around.”
The Bears traded up two spots in the draft to select Floyd at No. 9. The Georgia product played in 12 games, recording 33 tackles, seven sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and six tackles-for-loss. Floyd’s seven sacks rank third in Bears history by a rookie behind Mark Anderson’s 12 in 2006 and Brian Urlacher’s eight in 2000.
Floyd produced arguably the play of the year for the Bears when he sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, forcing a fumble that Floyd recovered in the end zone for a touchdown in a Week 7 loss in Green Bay. Floyd generated more points in a Week 13 win over the 49ers when he sacked Blaine Gabbert in the end zone for a safety.
The only negative with Floyd in 2016 was injuries. He missed two games with a calf injury in October and then suffered two concussions in five weeks, missing one contest on each occasion. Both concussions occurred when Floyd tried to make a tackle by leading with the crown of his helmet and slammed head-first into 336-pound teammate
“He had no history of concussions at Georgia,” Pace said. [But] having two concussions late in the year, we’re going to be smart about that. He really needs to learn to play with better technique and keeping his head up, especially when you’re running into Akiem Hicks. That’s not a good thing.”
Proud of Pernell: After spending the first six weeks of the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list while recovering from knee surgery,
While those numbers don’t jump off the page for a player who received a lucrative free-agent contract in 2015, Pace certainly doesn’t regret signing the veteran outside linebacker.
“There might not be a player I’m more proud of than Pernell and the way he’s responded from this injury and the changes he’s made, not just in the building but out of the building with his diet and his weight and his work ethic,” Pace said.
“He’s one of the top leaders on this team and people follow his attitude and his physicality. He got healthier and healthier as the season went on. I can think of practices when we were in the indoor [facility], I’d see him coming around the corner with the speed and [think] that’s the Pernell I’m used to seeing. Pernell is a professional. Pernell is a leader and I think he’s going to get healthier and healthier. He is worth the investment and I hope to see that more next season.”
PUP candidate: Pace acknowledged that inside linebacker
“I know he’s been communicating with some other guys in the league that have had a similar injury and have come back from it and are currently playing at a high level,” Pace said. “So we’re optimistic. He’s optimistic. He’s working hard.
“It could be a situation where he misses a lot of the offseason OTAs and we get to camp and we’ve got to make the evaluation at that point: Is he ready to go? Is he a PUP guy? We have to make that decision then. But it’s an injury he can fully recover from, so I think we’ll be all right.”
Faith in Fuller: Pace said that he’s not ready to give up on cornerback
“I think he’s frustrated and we are too,” Pace said. “We opened up that three-week [practice] window with the full expectation that by the end of that he would be ready to go.
“He’s trying to get stronger and he’s trying to do all of the little things right. I’m not giving up on Kyle Fuller. He was a high draft pick by this organization and it’s on us to do everything we can to get him playing back at a top level. It’s a position of need for us and getting him back where he can play would be huge for this organization. He’s got to have an important big offseason; he knows that.”
Asked how Fuller went from a minor scope to injured reserve, Pace said: “Strengthening the small muscles around the knee, and at his position especially different than some other positions, you’ve got to have that twitch and that suddenness and that explosiveness and he just didn’t feel like he had it and we didn’t feel like he had it either.
“There would be moments in practice, especially early on in practice, where he would look good and quick. I would go grab coach and be like, ‘Hey man, Kyle looks good.’ And by the end of practice he would fatigue a little bit. We’ve got to get him to a point where he is strong enough where that fatigue doesn’t occur because that can’t happen in a game obviously. Again, I haven’t given up on him. We’re going to surround him with everything we need to do this offseason and try to get him right. This offseason is critical for him.”
Roster addition: The Bears on Friday signed defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore to a reserve/futures contract.
Lewis-Moore was selected by the Ravens in the sixth round of the 2013 draft out of Notre Dame, but he missed the entire 2013 season with a knee injury and the entire 2014 season with an Achilles injury.
Lewis-Moore appeared in five games in 2015, recording three tackles, and then spent the 2016 season on Baltimore’s practice squad.