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Emma: Look Out For Leonard Floyd

By Chris Emma--

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) -- In meeting Bears edge rusher Leonard Floyd, the manners often catch first attention.

Yes, sir. No, sir. 

The native of small town Georgia is as polite and warm as they come, but he says he's different on game day. In fact, he's just what defensive coordinator Vic Fangio wanted in the ninth overall pick.

"Once I get into the stadium," said Floyd, "my alter ego just comes out."

Fangio's defenses are intended to be violent by nature. He builds tenacious units that can dominate a game. It was Fangio who was influential in the Bears moving up two spots to draft the raw Floyd from Georgia and make him an NFL edge rusher. He believed in what Floyd could become.

You can be sure of this: Fangio would love to see Floyd and that alter ego attacking on the field.

It doesn't take much to get Floyd fueled for football.

"The opportunity to make plays," Floyd said. "I mean, I love making plays. Once I know I've got an opportunity to do that, it just gets my blood pumped."

The Bears' pick of Floyd raised many eyebrows. For starters, he was added to a position with some depth -- Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston, Sam Acho and more -- and there were greater needs on the board.

More so, concerns came with selecting a lean body that didn't produce eye-popping numbers at Georgia. Still, the Bears fell in love with his tremendous athleticism, believing Fangio and outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt could coach him up.

"He'll be a big part of us," Bears coach John Fox said of Floyd.

Recently, Fox and the Bears coaching staff have move Floyd in for reps with the first-team defense. It'll be a fluid rotation at outside linebacker, with a group of talented veterans providing a unique mix of looks on the edge.

Floyd is certainly unique in his own way. He won't ever overpower until his 6-foot-6 frame bulks up, but Hurtt has helped him adjust as a finesse rusher. Bears tackle Charles Leno sees it each day in camp.

"Speed," Leno said. "He's a speed rush guy, he gets off the ball really well. Kind of long and lanky, so if he gets his hands on you before you get yours on him it can be a problem."

The Bears found their defensive identity the day Fangio became available to them back in 2015. They began to install his trademark 3-4 defense, which requires production from the position of outside linebacker. Disruption off the edge is critical for the unit to succeed.

Drafting Floyd meant the Bears had found a potential cornerstone to their defense. Many experts claimed that Floyd could be the next Aldon Smith, but Fangio felt that's false. Fangio sees Floyd as his own talent. That's where we circle back to that potential.

Floyd's ceiling is high, but the bust potential is there, too. He won't be able to overpower 320-pound tackles, so those quick feet must also come with aggressive, smart hands. Floyd has to use that terrific athleticism to become a force different from most of his peers.

"I've got the highest expectations on myself," Floyd said. "I put the most on myself. I'm on myself a lot about making sure that I show up."

Opportunities are starting to emerge for Floyd as the Bears' veteran coaching staff gains trust in the rookie. His spot in the rotation must be earned, because Houston and Young led the Bears in sacks last season and McPhee would've topped those two if he stayed healthy.

First for Floyd is showing he can beat NFL tackles and get to the backfield at this level. He has plenty to prove, starting in Thursday's preseason opener against the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos. The Bears have plenty of faith in what Floyd can become -- even this first season.

Don't be deceived by the manners, because Floyd has a mean streak. Perhaps it'll reveal on the field.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago's sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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