Eric Kush Has an Early Upper Hand Over Rookie James Daniels to Start at Left Guard
Matt Nagy made it clear that none of the Chicago Bears’ prized rookies were going to be handed a starting job, after stating that even first-round pick Roquan Smith needed to earn it on the field first.
And to prove he wasn’t bluffing, Nagy seemed to infer that Eric Kush has the upper-hand on second-rounder James Daniels in the battle for the starting left guard spot: “He’s doing a great job because he knows this offense,” Nagy said, via Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Mentally, the game has slowed down for him, and Kush is never going to shy away from competition.”
Lost in the shuffle during an offseason of change was the fact that Kush has a history with Nagy dating back to his brief two-year stint with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013 and 2014. And while the Bears aren’t going to run Kansas City’s exact playbook, Kush’s familiarity with the concepts, scheme, terminology, and other aspects of the offense is the kind of thing that would give him a leg up on a rookie in training camp. Yes, even one as talented as Daniels, a second-round pick who many believed was a first-round talent.
Kush started in four of the eight games he appeared in during the 2016 season, in which he earned a 63.8 grade from Pro Football Focus. He wasn’t expected to be a starter when he re-signed with the team in 2017, but instead was viewed as a top reserve with the potential to start at several places along the line. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury forced Kush to miss the entire season. Kush’s season-ending injury was a blow to an offensive line that struggled to piece together a consistent starting lineup. With Kush having experience at guard and center, his versatility could have been put to good use last year. But with the past being just that and Kush being healthy, it’s good to see him push Daniels for time with the first unit.
Competition is good. Position battles in training camp often create a productive atmosphere and an open competition can sometimes even breed excellence. We fully expect Daniels to play his way into a starting role between left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and center Cody Whitehair. But it’s evident that Daniels has some legitimate competition if he wants to start immediately as a rookie. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.