If the Chicago Bears are as set at center as Head Coach Matt Nagy indicates, that means James Daniels (who looked pretty good at his natural position against the Bengals last week) will just have to find another spot to play if he’s planning to crack the starting lineup. The good news, however, is that there is one position on the line that appears to have an open competition: left guard.
Bob LeGere of Pro Football Weekly views the starting left guard position as a potential three-horse race, which includes Daniels in the running. But if he is going to take over that spot full time, he’ll need to beat out some veteran competition first.
Eric Kush was listed as the team’s first-string left guard after the first depth chart was released and appeared to have a leg up on the competition, but he struggled against the Bengals and has limited starting experience overall. Earl Watford received a ton of first-team reps during the offseason training program in place of Kyle Long at right guard and started 20 games over the last two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals. Daniels is the least experienced member of the three-player battle, but he is the one with the most upside.
Daniels figures to continue to get practice reps at center, but the team seems to be intent on the idea of starting Cody Whitehair at center, which is understandable. After all, Whitehair is only one year removed from being one of the best players at the position, when he was a rookie who was thrust into the role during Week 1 of the regular season. Whitehair also happened to play his best ball when he was positioned at center in 2017, which is something we should also take into consideration when sorting through the future of this position.
But still … it seems like Daniels is in a position to practice and play his way into a starting position along the Bears’ offensive line. Considering the line’s importance to Mitch Trubisky’s development as a second-year starting quarterback and Jordan Howard’s success in the backfield, getting the five best players working as a unit should be a top priority for this team as the preseason moves on. Expect the Bears to pick up the pace in finding those five this week during joint practices against the Broncos in Colorado.