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Leonard Floyd latest first-round pass-rusher to be revived by Los Angeles Rams

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- From first-round bust with the Chicago Bears to Super Bowl or bust with the Los Angeles Rams, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is proof sometimes all a player needs is a fresh start.

In one season in L.A., Floyd has endeared himself to teammates while producing at a Pro Bowl level despite being a Pro Bowl snub.

"He's laid back, he's chill," Rams safety John Johnson III said. "He's just like a silent assassin."

Floyd's wreaked havoc on quarterbacks as a key contributor on the Rams' top-ranked defense, which shut down quarterback Russell Wilson and the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks to advance to the divisional round of the playoffs, where they'll face Aaron Rodgers and the NFC top-seed Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Saturday (4:35 p.m. ET, Fox).

"He has done such a great job for us," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "He has been so steady, so consistent, so versatile."

Floyd has followed the template executed by Dante Fowler Jr. -- breaking out with the Rams after being a failed first-rounder elsewhere. Floyd, a lanky 6-foot-5, 240-pounds, tallied three multi-sack performances this year, finishing the regular season with a career-high 10.5 sacks and a hefty bonus check after surpassing the 10-sack mark in Week 17 to earn a $1.25 million contract incentive.

"Shout out to my teammates and coaching staff for believing in me and helping me along the way to get here," Floyd said after the regular-season finale.

"He's fit really well with our team and how we want to play," said defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who coached Floyd for two seasons during a previous stop as the outside linebackers coach in Chicago.

The Bears selected Floyd with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2016 draft and exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie deal prior to the 2019 season. However, before the former Georgia standout reached his fifth season in Chicago, the Bears released him due to lack of production. In four seasons, he was unable to consistently pressure the quarterback, compiling only 18.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

At the urging of Staley, the Rams signed Floyd to a one-year, $10-million prove-it deal and he's excelled.

"Just being around a different group of guys and going out and playing with them is very different," said Floyd, who turned 28 this past September, "and I'm enjoying it."

Floyd plays on the edge of a Super Bowl-worthy defense that recorded 53 regular-season sacks (No. 2 in NFL) and includes two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Sebastian Joseph-Day along the defensive line. He lines up opposite of a linebacker rotation that includes Justin Hollins, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Samson Ebukam.

"He's football smart," said Donald, who went on to explain Floyd's rush moves and how he works in tandem with Floyd. "Having the ability to do that and work with a guy that understands football and knows how to play off guys, it's been huge for us."

Floyd established himself with his first multi-sack performance of the season in a Week 7 win over the Bears, which was far from a coincidence, as he admitted before the game he felt more energy and motivation facing his former team.

"It was kind of emotional," Floyd said after the revenge performance, clutching a game ball. "But I tried not to get too far into the emotional side of it."

The other multi-sack performances came against the Seahawks, as Floyd has single-handedly destroyed Wilson. Floyd sacked the eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback a combined five times in their regular-season matchups (three in Week 10, two in Week 16), then took Wilson down twice more when the Rams ended the Seahawks' season 30-20 in Saturday's wild-card playoff game.

Staley acknowledged the presence of Donald -- who has drawn a league-high 327 doubles teams on pass rushes -- makes each defensive player more productive.

Fowler experienced a similar revival when he joined the Rams for one and a half seasons before earning a free agent payday with the Atlanta Falcons. But Staley was adamant Floyd's breakthrough season stands on its own.

"He's playing as well as I've ever seen him play," Staley said. "I think he's become the best version of himself."

Said Donald: "He's been productive."

The only question that remains is whether the Rams will be able to afford to keep Floyd around, with his contract set to expire following the season.

"We would like to," McVay said. "The answer is absolutely yes."