Matt Nagy and the Chicago Bears are standing by Cody Whitehair as their man in the middle.
“We like where Cody is,” Nagy said, via JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago. “Cody is doing a great job. If you go back to OTAs, this is what we said, we said was we want to make sure we keep him honing in on that position, get those reps. The center is like playing quarterback. So if you start moving guys around to different spots now you’re playing with fire, in my opinion.”
Nagy might be onto something here with regards with consistency on the line. The Bears played with fire along the offensive line throughout the 2017 season, as they were forced to play eight different offensive linemen at least 250 snaps. Finding some stability and consistency in front of Mitch Trubisky could prove to be valuable.
Whitehair was one of the few offensive linemen on the team who played at least 90 percent of the offense’s snaps in 2017, but moving him between guard and center might have been detrimental to his long-term development. He struggled to find a steady groove last season, save for the stretch of games where he was back at center on a full-time basis. A strong finish didn’t totally erase an awful start that had Pro Football Focus ranking him as the worst pass blocker after the first month of regular season games, but it made us feel good about him moving past a dreadful sophomore slump.
Unfortunately, a bad snap and an untimely holding penalty early in Thursday’s preseason contest against the Bengals gave us flashbacks to some of the rough times Whitehair had in 2017. Couple that with James Daniels’ stellar performance with the second unit and it’s easy to think about other combinations that could present the best starting five on the offensive line.
If Daniels continues to play at a high level for the rest of the preseason, he’ll force his way into the starting lineup one way or another. And if it doesn’t come at center, it could be at left guard in place of Eric Kush, who had his own issues dealing with Geno Atkins and the rest of Cincinnati’s interior defensive linemen. The Bears drafted Daniels with the idea he would replace Josh Sitton at left guard, but Kush has strung together a solid training camp in Bourbonnais and practiced his way into a starting role. I suppose there is a chance that Daniels’ long-term future isn’t at guard or center … but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
Daniels’ path to playing time isn’t entirely clear at the moment, but the Bears have a good problem on their hands in that one of their top draft picks is making noise and is on the cusp of forcing himself into the lineup. And if things continue to trend in the same direction they have this summer, it’s only a matter of when (and where) Daniels will play and not “if” he’ll crack the starting five.