Bears 2016 Rookies – Progress Report

Bears 2016 Rookies – Progress Report

We asked Danny Shimon to look at three of the Chicago Bears 2016 rookies. Shimon has provided  with multiple scouting reports, including this one on Deiondre’ Hall (CLICK HERE) and another on Jonathan Bullard (CLICK HERE). Below he looks at Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair and Jordan Howard.

With a quarter of the Bears 2016 season in the books we take our first look at the progress of the 2016 rookie draft class. A number of players from the 2016 class have already seen significant time on the field this season and that is who I will focus on. Of the nine-player draft class outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, and running back Jordan Howard have seen the most significant playing time through the first four weeks of the season.

Here is a brief breakdown on how each has performed so far:

Leonard Floyd – The Bears first round pick (9th overall) has pretty much lived up to his predraft projections. Floyd is athletic with tremendous length, and speed. He displays that athleticism in glimpses whether it is rushing off the edge or dropping back into coverage. Floyd surprisingly has also displayed, in certain situations, an ability to set a hard edge and maintain containment in run defense.

Unfortunately, though the amount of negative plays where Floyd is getting overpowered at the point of contact, or completely washed out of the play are still too prevalent. Floyd’s lack of strength was a primary concern coming out of Georgia and adding strength will be an ongoing process that the Bears will have to be patient with. However, expectations were that Floyd could at least utilize some of his speed and change of direction quickness to supply a boost to the Bears pass rush, especially with Lamarr Houston out for the season and Pernell McPhee still on the PUP list. So far Floyd has made minimal impact in that area as well having collected only a half-sack in the opener versus the Texans.

Floyd’s development the rest of the season will be paramount for the Bears future and something we will continue to follow. While I still believe the best is yet to come from the rookie it would be nice to see him flash his abilities on a more consistent basis as he gets accustomed to playing in the NFL.

Cody Whitehair – The rookie lineman has been a starter on the offensive line since the start of training camp. The former college left tackle had been manning the left guard position until a couple of developments occurred. One, was starting center Hronis Grasu going down for the season with a knee injury. While the second was the signing of guard Josh Sitton which in turn forced Whitehair’s move to center.

So far Whitehair has more than held his own as the interior pivot for the Bears. After a somewhat rough opening weekend Whitehair appears to be getting more comfortable inside and being flanked by two pro bowl guards only helps his development further.

What you like about Whitehair, besides the versatility, is his strength and quickness along with his athletic ability. He is a natural bender able to get low in his crouch, with the ability to quickly get up and engage with a defender. He is able to get his arms inside the lineman’s chest standing him up while keeping his knees bent and feet moving able to mirror the defensive tackle down the line of scrimmage. Watching his tape Whitehair does a nice job on double-teams and chips blocks while also able to release and get out to the defenses second level where his quick feet, and athleticism allow him to quickly engage a linebacker or safety. His recognition has steadily improved, since the opening game, and he has gotten better at spotting and recognizing when a defensive end or outside linebacker is running a stunt and is attempting to loop back inside.

Early on Whitehair appears to be more comfortable in zone-blocking as opposed to head-to-head power run blocking. Once again with his quickness and athleticism he is able to engage and get the defender moving laterally in hopes of opening up a cut-back lane for the running back.

Whitehair will need to add more strength in order to improve and become more stout at the point-of-attack so he can get better at anchoring especially in pass protection. There were a number of times on tape where I saw Whitehair get bullied back, losing his leverage, and getting overpowered by a stronger defender.

On the whole considering Whitehair had only taken 10 snaps at center prior to being moved to the position permanently by the Bears coaches you have to be pleased with his play and potential. As the season goes on look for the trio of Sitton, Whitehair, and Long to continue building that cohesiveness and make the inside of the Bears offensive line stronger.

In the latest Pro Football Focus offensive line rankings, the Bears finished 13th overall, and would have been higher if not for the inconsistent play they have received from their outside tackles. With Cody Whitehair helping to solidify the center position this will go a long way in the Bears finally being able to build a formidable offensive line.

Jordan Howard – The rookie runner out of Indiana had seen limited action up until this past weekend’s game versus the Lions. Due to injuries suffered by Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey the rookie Howard got his first career start and he made the most of the opportunity.

Howard finished with 111 yards (first 100-yard rushing performance by a Bears back since Matt Forte did it last September versus Green Bay) on 23 carries to go along with three receptions for 21 yards. In the process Howard showed his ability to be a lead back, and help carry an offense. Howard has deceptive quickness in his game for a bigger back. He possesses quick feet which allow him to quickly plant his foot and cut altering his course without needing to slowdown. He also showed good balance as he ran through some arm tackles, as defenders bounced off him. However, what really impressed me was the vision and patience he displayed for a younger back as he allowed his blocking to set up and was able to get small in order to get through some of those openings.

Howard also appears to have soft hands and was able to catch the ball cleanly not needing to cradle it into his body. While there are still areas he can improve in, Howard displayed the natural instincts and running ability for the position, and could very well be a long-time starter at running back for the Bears.

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Danny Shimon

Danny Shimon

NFL Draft Columnist for NFL writer for National Football post and NFCNBarroom

Tags assigned to this article:
Cody WhitehairJordan HowardLeonard Floyd

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