With OTA’s coming to an end, there aren’t that too many story lines out there that concern the Bears. That’s what happens when you have a roster built like theirs. Barring some drastic changes or injuries, there will be no surprise starters.
However, there is one important move to which fans should pay attention: James Daniels and Cody Whitehair are switching positions. This means that Whitehair would be the left guard and Daniels would be the center, but just how is this affecting the offense as a whole?
Regarding Whitehair, there were a few instances last season when he produced a little too high or too low of a snap, and I feel like if we can eliminate that while still maximizing his talent, there needs to be a switch. Whitehair made the Pro Bowl last year in a position that he’s only played for the last 3 years, so I can only Imagine how good he could be at his natural position, which is left guard. After all, he was Pro Football Focus’s highest rated guard coming out of college.
Bears with a great pick at No. 56, take PFF's top guard, Cody Whitehair. pic.twitter.com/V9ZXtsPVN1
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 30, 2016
In all honesty he wouldn’t have been a center if it wasn’t for the signing of Josh Sitton. Whitehair was slated to start between Hroniss Grasu and Charles Leno, but after the signing of Sitton, former head coach John Fox and current general manager Ryan Pace made the decision to move Whitehair over to center to keep him on the field.
As for James Daniels, he is actually in the reverse of Whitehall’s situation – he is a former center (although he has some experience in college at guard) who might possibly switch back to the position they played in college. Daniels only started 10 games at guard and looked very comfortable in that position, but he should slide comfortably into the middle slot.
Guard has been a revolving door since the Bears had to release Sitton, as Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann both played meaningful snaps last season. The Bears didn’t even need to draft a center last year; had Whitehair been playing badly at center the Bears would have drafted a center during the 2017 draft. However, with the drafting of James Daniels, it did leave wiggle room for the possibility of a position swap.
The Bears got better on their offensive line by adding talented run blocker James Daniels from Iowa pic.twitter.com/ZQZopokJFI
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 27, 2018
Both of these guys were the lauded coming out of college for their run-blocking ability and have lived up to the billing. Both hunt for contact in the second level if there is not somebody in front of them, and sometimes even if there is. Daniels has been described as a snow plow and Whitehair has been a straight up mauler, but they have also have become excellent pass blockers.
At one point last season, Daniels and Whitehair owned the most consecutive snaps without a pressure from a center and a guard at the same time with 81 and 80, respectively. That’s incredibly impressive for that to be coming from two guys who are also great run blockers. When it comes to players having similar skill sets it easy to move them around.
In my opinion, switching these guys will only help the offensive line. At the very least, they should roll out Daniels at center during the off-season and give him at least two preseason games there, so he can obtain some NFL experience at the position. Another thing to keep in mind is if Cody Whitehair decides to sign somewhere else next season, as he is entering a contract year, Daniels should be able to step right up and take over.
Whitehair will be 27 by the time next season starts and is in the middle of his prime. If guard is the best position for him he needs to be playing it. James Daniels, however, is turning 22 during the season and still has alot of room to grow. If he shows the same amount of promise that he did lasy season, I believe we might have our new version of Olin Kruetz.
My one concern will be this: how will Trubisky react? Cody has been the only center for Trubisky’s professional career. It’s obviously going to take time, but the question is how long will it take?
All in all this is a positive step forward. No matter how this plays out, we will know that barring any injury the Bears’ best offensive linemen will be playing their natural position.