Leonard Floyd

Leonard Floyd listed as questionable, but ‘of course’ expects to play

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USA TODAY

Leonard Floyd listed as questionable, but ‘of course’ expects to play

Leonard Floyd was a late addition to the Bears’ injury report this week, with the second-year outside linebacker being listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to a back issue that limited him practice on Friday. 

Floyd, though, said he “of course” expects to play this weekend. He declined to go into specifics of what happened to his back, but coach John Fox said it was “bothering him a bit,” so the team limited him in Friday’s practice. 

In Tampa Bay’s 36-10 win over the Bears last year at Raymond James Stadium, Floyd had 1 1/2 sacks and three tackles, but felt he could’ve done more that day.

“I left a lot of plays that I could’ve made out there on the field,” Floyd said. “I look forward to this Sunday to finishing those plays.” 

Chemistry class

Markus Wheaton’s practice status hasn’t changed since last week, with the speedy receiver remaining limited by the fractured pinkie he suffered in August. Officially listed as questionable for Sunday, Wheaton admitted he “absolutely” needs to go through a full practice before he can play in a game for the first time in a Bears uniform. 

Wheaton said the “biggest question” he faces is how he’ll be able to use his hands in blocking opposing cornerbacks in the run game. But he also admitted he hasn’t been able to develop much chemistry with quarterback Mike Glennon due to that pinkie injury and the appendectomy that ruled him out for part of training camp, too. 

“We got a good amount of reps in camp but definitely not where I want to be and I'm sure not where he wants to be,” Wheaton said. “So, we have to work on that. … If there's some things we need to work on, we'll work on them before we get out there, for sure.”

Still, Wheaton sounded fairly optimistic about how close he was to returning to a Bears receiving corps needing his ability to stretch the field, noting he’s catching real footballs (instead of Nerf balls, as he was early last week). 

The Long road back

Kyle Long said on Friday he’s getting “closer and closer” to returning, but couldn’t guarantee he’ll be ready to play Sunday against Tampa Bay. Long participated — in a limited manner — in every Bears’ practice this week and is questionable for Sunday. 

“I didn’t bring my magic ball, my crystal ball, but I will say I feel a ton better than I have and I think the guys see that and the coaches see that,” Long said. 

Infirmary attendance

The rest of the Bears’ injury report from Friday: Cornerback Prince Amukamara (questionable, ankle), running back Jordan Howard (questionable, shoulder), wide receiver Josh Bellamy (questionable, ankle), linebacker Christian Jones (questionable, back), safety Deon Bush (questionable, hamstring), running back Benny Cunningham (doubtful, ankle).

Bears Week 1 grades: Long looks needed for Mike Glennon, secondary

Bears Week 1 grades: Long looks needed for Mike Glennon, secondary

Quarterbacks: C+

Credit is due for Mike Glennon given what he did on the Bears’ final drive, even if it didn’t get in the end zone. With Atlanta head-scratchingly playing plenty of off coverage against an offense that barely tried to stretch the field throughout the game, Glennon took what was given and marched the Bears within five yards of the end zone with time running out. And Glennon, for what it’s worth, could’ve been a hero had Jordan Howard not dropped his pass and backed into the end zone on second-and-goal (more on that later). 

Another point in Glennon’s favor: Not only was he not intercepted on Sunday, he didn’t make any cringe-worthy throws that could’ve easily been picked off. 

But the Bears’ offense until late in the fourth quarter was “fine” at best, save for some flashes of brilliance from Tarik Cohen (again, more on him in a bit). Glennon was 7/9 for 41 yards at halftime, and the Bears ran 20 plays between completed passes at one point during the second and third quarters. 

Running backs: A-

Tarik Cohen was outstanding, sparking the Bears’ offense with a 46-yard scamper and a 19-yard touchdown when the team needed it the most (both those big plays came after Atlanta had scored a touchdown). Jordan Howard had 52 yards on 13 carries, but his drop on the 1-yard line of a possible game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter lowers this unit's grade a bit. 

Wide receivers: D-

This unit was targeted by Glennon only two more times (14) than Cohen (12) was, and the only deep ball Glennon threw was to the speedy rookie running back. The production just wasn’t there for this group, which combined to catch nine passes for 82 yards as it struggled to get open on deeper routes. Kevin White, prior to his injury, had a rough drop on a quick slant. Saving this group from an F: Kendall Wright and Josh Bellamy combined for four catches and 45 yards — so about half the unit’s total production — on the Bears’ final drive. 

Tight Ends: C

Zach Miller received the second most targets of any player (six) and had four catches for 39 yards, and Dion Sims caught two passes for 31 yards. This unit can be better, especially with the Bears possibly without their top two receivers in White and Cameron Meredith, but also didn’t do a lot wrong on Sunday. 

Offensive line: C-

Even if you allow for Glennon missing a protection here or there, the offensive line bears the most responsibility for the four sacks Atlanta totaled. None were more important than the last one, when Brooks Reed raced around Bobby Massie to sack Glennon (Massie, arguably, wasn’t overtly beat on it, but Glennon didn’t have room to step up — overall, the Falcons were able to sustain good pressure on the play). 

Cody Whitehair committed two penalties that put the Bears behind the sticks, which was a tough place for an offense lacking the ability to stretch the field, and a low snap while Glennon was in the gun led to a wasted play in the fourth quarter. There shouldn’t be a long-term concern about this unit — especially when Kyle Long returns — but it struggled at times on Sunday. 

Defensive line: A-

Akiem Hicks had two sacks, Roy Robertson-Harris generated some good pressure and batted down a pass and this group led the effort to hold Devonta Freeman to only 37 yards on 12 carries. Hicks in particular played at an elite level a day after signing a four-year contract extension, though the roughing the passer foul he committed in the third quarter led to a Falcons field goal. 

Linebackers: B-

This unit was the other half of the equation to stopping the highest paid running back in the NFL, with Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan both doing well to mute the run. Freeman did well in covering tight end Levine Toilolo late in the fourth quarter, preventing what would’ve been a game-clinching touchdown. Leonard Floyd didn’t get much pressure on Matt Ryan but broke up a pass and was solid as a tackler. 

Defensive backs: C-

The Bears allowed an 88-yard touchdown pass, and Austin Hooper’s 40-yard gain on third-and-10 late in the fourth quarter was rough (Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson missed tackles on that play). On the 88-yard score, the Bears were still getting set right up to the snap, and it looked like linebacker Jerrell Freeman thought he could hand off Hooper to a safety, but Quintin Demps went toward the far sideline to help Fuller with Julio Jones, leaving Hooper wide open over the middle. After the game, Demps took responsibility for the broken coverage. 

This grade isn’t completely ruined by those plays, though, because Marcus Cooper and Fuller combined to do well in limiting Julio Jones to four catches for 66 yards — and Matt Ryan only looked Jones’ way five times during the game. Even if Jones was merely a decoy on some snaps, that’s still a solid showing for these DBs against one of the best receivers in the NFL. Not only did Cooper and Fuller throw plenty of different looks Jones’ way, but they succeeded in making those looks successful. An example: with Atlanta facing a third-and-goal from the 10-yad line, Fuller re-routed Jones and took him out of a play that ended with an incompletion. Another one: Cooper came awfully close to a pick six in the fourth quarter when he aggressively jumped a throw toward Jones, settling for a pass break-up. 

Nickel Bryce Callahan deserves a mention for solid coverage and, on a blitz, drawing the attention of right tackle Ryan Schraeder, which freed up Hicks to envelop Ryan for his second sack of the game.

Special teams: B

Connor Barth tied a career high with a 54-yard field goal, his only non-PAT attempt of the game, but it’s enough to boost this grade. Deonte Thompson fumbled a kickoff late in the fourth quarter that the Bears, fortunately, recovered. 

Coaching: B

This was a relatively clean game for the Bears penalty-wise, though the three committed (two on Whitehair, one on Hicks) certainly hurt. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains deserves praise for hiding Cohen during preseason play — he wasn’t even targeted in three games — and unleashing him against a Falcons defense that looked caught off guard by the running back’s skillset at times. And the Bears responded well to Atlanta delivering what were two gut-check touchdowns, equalizing the game at 10 after Atlanta scored in the second quarter and getting within three points after the 88-yard calamity in the fourth. 

Perhaps Fox should’ve called timeout with the defense struggling to get aligned properly before Hooper’s touchdown, but he said after the game it wasn’t clear the coverage was going to be a problem until after the play began. 

Pernell McPhee’s return would be an important boost for Bears’ pass rush

Pernell McPhee’s return would be an important boost for Bears’ pass rush

Pernell McPhee didn’t show up to training camp in late July expecting to be paced on the physically unable to perform list. So when the Bears found an issue with his knee during physicals, it caught the veteran outside linebacker off guard.

“It was surprising,” McPhee said. “But a lot of things happen for a reason. Some things you can’t prepare for. You’ve just got to take that challenge and go with the best way you know. Just getting ready for whatever’s coming.”

McPhee didn’t come off the PUP list during training camp, remaining largely out of sight in Bourbonnais. He was activated over the weekend and was in attendance for his first practice on Monday, giving him a short window to prepare if he’s able to play on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

McPhee didn’t guarantee that he’ll play Sunday (“that’s God’s will,” he said) but when he does return, he expects to play at 100 percent.

“I just got to be smart,” McPhee, who missed time with knee injuries in 2015 and 2016, said. “I’m going to go 100 percent every time until my body totally breaks down. Just being smart and making the plays that present itself for me. And just helping my team win the best way I can.

“… You can’t worry about injuries. That’s part of football. You’ve just got to worry about attacking the next day, the next day, the next moment.”

The Bears, too, don’t want McPhee to hold back when he plays.

“You can't coach it carefully and you can't play it carefully,” coach John Fox said. “It's not a careful game, it's not chess.”

Whenever McPhee does play his first snap — preseason included — of the 2017 season, his return would be a welcome addition to an outside linebacker group that saw Lamarr Houston placed on injured reserve over the weekend. Adding a guy with 10 sacks in 23 games with the Bears would help strengthen a unit headlined by Willie Young (7 1/2 sacks in 2016) and Leonard Floyd (7 sacks in 2016).

Without McPhee, though, the Bears’ front seven played well during its August dress rehearsal for the regular season. Floyd, in particular, had an excellent preseason, while the rest of the Bears’ defensive line and linebackers flashed some reasons for optimism.

“They were animals,” McPhee said. “I’ve been excited all camp watching them, of course the preseason if you look at it, they looked like some animals. I’m excited to join them.”