As the Chicago Bears head to Denver to practice with the Broncos leading up to their Saturday night preseason matchup, one of the more talked about rookie lately is center James Daniels.
Daniels impressed in his rookie debut last week against the Cincinnati Bengals in the team’s second preseason game. Throughout the game, the Bears second-round pick showed why the team valued him so high and why it might be smart for the team to start him soon.
With two practices and a game against Denver this week, Daniels has a chance to prove himself against one of the NFL’s best pass rushing defenses. Denver’s “No Fly Zone” has been consistent in attacking the opposing quarterback thanks to All-Pro linebacker Von Miller. The defense got even better when they drafted defensive end Bradley Chubb with the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft. The Broncos pass rush will be an important measuring stick for just how good the Bears offensive line is in protecting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Following his performance against the Bengals, it would be highly unlikely that Daniels doesn’t seen at least a few snaps during practice and even a few game reps with the starters this week. The problem for head coach Matt Nagy is who to play at center as both Daniels and current starting center Cody Whitehair have proven able to play the position. Daniels started in college at the center position at Iowa while Whitehair moved over to the center position in his rookie training camp in 2016.
James Daniels just blocked like 3 dudes on that TD run. Good lord! That’s your starting C #Bears fans.
— Andrew Link (@BearsLink82) August 9, 2018
Whitehair is more of the proven commodity as he has been the Bears starting center for over two years and excelled with little to no prior experience. If Daniels does start, it is likely the team puts him at the guard position due to his large frame and his quick mobility. His 6-foot-3, 306-pound body makes him an ideal fit for an interior lineman as he shares a similar makeup to that of starting right guard Kyle Long.
A starting three of Daniels, Whitehair, and long would make for a quality interior line grouping especially when it comes to the run game. In the 17 games that Whitehair and Long have started together in two years, running back Jordan Howard has had recorded eight 100 yard rushing games. That has occurred with opposing defenses knowing that Howard was the Bears biggest offensive threat.
Now add Daniels to the mix along with a new offensive line coach in Harry Hiestand and the offensive line could be one the of best in the league. The team could give Daniels the next two weeks with the starters at guard to prove himself against very respectable pass rush defenses in both the Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. The Bears have the luxury of having a proven reserve in guard Eric Kush who can step in for Daniels if he struggles and appears not ready to start week one against the Green Bay Packers.
General manager Ryan Pace drafted Daniels too high for him to be a backup center and not to be a week one starter. It would also be bad on the coaching staff that has drawn his praise during the off-season for their high level of offensive football IQ to not have him ready. There should be little concerned a talent ability if Daniels performs like he did against the Bengals in the team’s next two pre-season games.
If they are concerned with a play-calling and blocking assignment area that is more on coaching than the player. When the Bears open the season against the Packers, their starting offensive line should feature the rookie Daniels.