James Daniels was given plenty of opportunities to put some quality stuff on tape for Chicago Bears coaches in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills, as he played the entire game.
This workload could have been taken as a sign that the Bears wanted to give the rookie lineman some additional reps to get him up to speed and get more film in which to evaluate the University of Iowa product. HOWEVER, the decision to play Daniels as much as they did could have been viewed as an inkling to who won the battle to start at left guard.
And by the looks of it, Daniels appears to find himself on the outside looking in:
Eric Kush didn't play today while James Daniels did (a lot). Fair to say Kush is the Week 1 starting left guard? Matt Nagy: "I’m not going to say 100 percent, but we would probably lean toward that."
— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) August 31, 2018
Head Coach Matt Nagy wasn’t willing to completely commit to Kush as the team’s starting left guard, but if actions speak louder than words, then sitting Kush and playing Daniels spoke volumes of what the projected starting offensive line will look like in Green Bay. After all, players who don’t participate in the final preseason game are oftentimes the ones with the most secure roster spots. And if you’re projected to start, there’s no way you’re seeing the field in a preseason game with the regular season 10 days from kicking off.
The Kush-Daniels battle came down to the wire and the veteran will get the nod over the rookie. This isn’t necessarily an indictment on the University of Iowa product or how he has performed in the preseason. Daniels made waves throughout training camp for his versatility and performances at guard and center, then put together some strong preseason efforts when given the opportunity. Still, it’s a bit concerning that the team’s second-round pick who was essentially drafted to replace the outgoing Josh Sitton at left guard won’t crack the Week 1 lineup unless the head coach has a change of heart.
Daniels was a stud center in college and was has the makings of a quality pro offensive guard, but it’s likely that there are still some things the Bears’ decision-makers would like to see ironed out in his game. Make no mistake, Daniels’ future in Chicago is still bright. If Nagy and the Bears decide to lean on the veteran Kush to start the year, Daniels will be the top reserve at two interior offensive line positions. Daniels will be the next man up if Kush struggles out of the gate, so let’s keep a close eye on how Kush responds to winning the starting gig and if he can string together a run of excellence in protecting Mitch Trubisky and clearing running lanes for Jordan Howard.