With the first half of the season over, the Bears are sitting atop of the NFC North at 5-3, a position Chicago hasn’t been in since Marc Trestman’s first year as head coach in 2013.
Trestman’s Bears, though, went 3-5 to close out the season and missed the playoffs.
Current Bears head coach Matt Nagy may have the same exact record through eight games as Trestman, but this is a completely different team, with only Kyle Long and Sherrick McManis remaining from 2013.
Nagy’s team has a far better coaching staff and more playmakers on both sides of the ball, and this has the Bears primed to make a successful second-half run.
But for that to happen, every member of Chicago’s roster will have to step up. Luckily for the Bears, two of their most important pieces have elevated their play in the past two weeks: Jordan Howard and Leonard Floyd.
Prior to the Bears’ 24-10 victory over the Jets, both Howard and Floyd left Bears fans wanting more from the two former selections in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Here is how the two have performed through the first half of the season.
Along with Howard finding the end zone more frequently in the two-week span against the Jets and Bills, the third-year running back also had two of his three longest runs during this stretch. Against the Jets, Howard had a season-long 24-yard run, and two plays later he finished the drive with his third rushing touchdown of the season.
In the matchup against the Bills, Howard ran over a Bills defender on his 18-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put the Bears up 28-0, which was his third longest run this season.
As for Floyd, not only has his pass rush improved, applying eight pressures in the past two weeks to four in the first seven weeks, but he has been more effective setting the edge and that is because of his improved technique with his hands, which at the beginning of the season was hindered due to a right-hand fracture.
Floyd also has excelled at diagnosing plays. In the first quarter of the Bills game, Floyd is lined up in a 2-point stance and bursts upfield off the edge, but he recognizes that Nathan Peterman is throwing a screen pass. Floyd quickly turns his body and disrupts the play.
Even though it may have taken seven weeks for the two to finally emerge, it couldn’t have happened at a better time because the Bears will play three divisional games in the next 15 days.
The Bears will need Howard to continue battling for those tough yards in order to sustain drives while also wearing out a defense, and this will help to keep opposing offenses off the field. The NFC North has its fair share of good quarterbacks, so the ability to run the ball with the duo of Howard and Tarik Cohen will be vital moving forward.
And Floyd will play a crucial role in applying pressure to the opposing quarterbacks in the division. With Khalil Mack most likely coming back from injury this week against the Lions, Floyd has an opportunity to finally get that first sack of the season against Matthew Stafford, who was sacked 10 times on Sunday against the Vikings.
General manager Ryan Pace drafted both Howard and Floyd with the vision of them being key components to his team for years to come. If these two play well in the last eight games of the 2018 regular season, that will increase the team’s chances of making the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and be a good indication that Pace made the right choices for the organization’s success.