There are times where even the best-laid plans get thrown for a loop, and that appears to be what’s happening with the Chicago Bears and what they were hoping to do with James Daniels.
Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Daniels was going to be playing/practicing at center this week, according to Offensive Line Coach Harry Hiestand. Head Coach Matt Nagy has since confirmed the move, adding that he hopes that Daniels can play in Thursday’s preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Hiestand said sliding Daniels back to the position he thrived at in college stems from Daniels missing “a lot of fundamental work” after the rookie sat out with a shoulder injury. To be clear, this isn’t the Bears giving up on their long-term plan of Daniels playing left guard. But with Eric Kush practicing well with the first unit and getting an early upper hand in the battle for a starting gig, plus the need to get Daniels reps, the move from guard to center could be beneficial in the short-term (in order to get Daniels up to speed) and over the long haul (it helps build Daniels’ versatility along the line).
The Bears drafted Daniels in the second round and expressed their intent on moving the University of Iowa product from center to left guard. From there, Daniels was expected to take the spot of the departed Josh Sitton after the team declined to pick up the third-year option on Sitton’s deal. And while that might eventually be how things play out, it’s evident that it will take some time before Daniels (and the Bears) get there.
Chicago’s offensive line didn’t play to its potential in 2017, and surely injuries played a part in that. Eight different offensive linemen played at least 250 offensive snaps last season, and only three were in on at least 90 percent of the unit’s plays. Surely, the Bears entered the 2018 season in search of healthier bodies, additional quality among the offensive line’s depth, and some more versatility. Ideally, Daniels can shake this injury off and show that he can play both center and left guard at a high level – which would put the Bears at ease when thinking about the young lineman’s future.