When asked early in the week which young Bears players he was eager to watch in Thursday night's preseason opener, Akiem Hicks mentioned two high 2016 draft picks.
Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd didn't waste any time making an impact in the preseason opener.
"I'm still looking at the same two guys I looked at last year," said the veteran defensive end. "I want to see 'Bull' (Jonathan Bullard) get off and I want to see [Leonard] Floyd. I'm selfishly looking at our defense, right? But those are the guys I look to get a lot out of going into this game."
Hicks no doubt was pleased with what he witnessed Thursday night against the Broncos. On Denver's very first play from scrimmage, Floyd blew past right tackle Menelik Watson and sacked quarterback Trevor Siemian. Later on the drive, Floyd pressured Siemian into a third-down incompletion, forcing the Broncos to settle for a field goal.
"It was a good start, but there's still some errors I made," Floyd said. "Got to watch the film, go in and practice and just get better. Keep chopping wood."
That type of attitude should serve Floyd well as he looks to build on a productive rookie season. Last year the ninth overall pick in the draft recorded seven sacks in 12 games, scored a touchdown on a strip/sack of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and generated a safety with a sack of 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
"He's hungry," outside linebacker Sam Acho said of Floyd. "He just wants to be great. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. Leonard Floyd wants to be great. He wants to do all the little things that it takes to be great. He has all the ability to be great, and we're pushing him. He's pushing me, he's making me better and I'm trying to make him better."
Bullard produced an impact play early in the second quarter Thursday night when he dropped running back Stevan Ridley for a three-yard loss on third-and-one, forcing the Broncos to punt. Selected by the Bears in the third round of last year's draft out of Florida, Bullard appears to have made major strides since an underwhelming rookie season.
"He's definitely stronger and faster," Hicks said. "He was already explosive. He has picked up the game to a point where he can play within the scheme now and see things come and be able to predict the play in order to get a step on the guard or tackle, whoever he's playing against, just the things that come with getting more reps."