The Chicago Bears’ offensive line will go to battle with experience over upside when Week 1 of the regular season kicks off against the Green Bay Packers this Sunday night.
Eric Kush is listed as the first-string left guard on the Bears’ updated depth chart, bringing one of the few training camp battles from the summer to a close. It’s a move that Head Coach Matt Nagy was already leaning towards when the preseason wrapped up, but not one to which he was eager to commit. In fact, Nagy hinted at going back and dissecting tape before making a final decision. However, between Kush being inactive for the preseason finale and rookie James Daniels playing as much as he did, the writing was on the wall.
So … how do we feel about it?
The decision to start Kush over Daniels leaves the rookie as the primary backup for Kush, right guard Kyle Long, and center Cody Whitehair. There was a time when Daniels looked poised to make a push to start at center and push Whitehair to guard, which happens to be the position Whitehair was originally drafted to play in 2016, but apparently not yet.
Whitehair, you’ll recall, has had a stellar season at center and a year in which he was a grand disappointment. But despite his struggles, the Bears stood by their starting center. That meant the left guard position as the only starting roster spot up for grabs. And with Kush winning it, Daniels is left to continue his development as a reserve.
What complicates the entire situation is Daniels being a center by trade and having a recent history being excellent in that role while playing for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Clearly, the Bears like him enough to list him as the top backup at three different positions along the interior of the line – especially since he is the No. 1 option behind two players who suffered season-ending injuries last season. But still … this probably isn’t what the Bears wanted when they drafted Daniels in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, especially after GM Ryan Pace insisted Daniels was drafted to play guard in the NFL. But I suppose it’s better to play a talented lineman when he’s ready rather than force him into a role he isn’t ready to conquer.
Daniels figures to be a big piece of the Bears’ offensive line moving forward, even if his long-term future isn’t necessarily at left guard. But for the time being, Daniels will have to cut his teeth as a reserve until his time to start comes along.