Eric Kush’s appearance on the Chicago Bears’ injury report could lead to what can be described simply as a changing of the guard.*
Kush popped up as a limited participant in practice with a neck injury, which could open the door for rookie James Daniels to make his first regular season start at left guard in the NFL. (Changing of the guard … get it? I knew you would!)
The Bears already let Daniels get his feet wet in Week 4, rotating him in for 27 offensive snaps in the team’s win against the Buccaneers. That bit of experience could turn out to be quite valuable. Because if Kush isn’t able to give it a go and Daniels was to make his first start on Sunday in Miami, at least the University of Iowa product will have had some in-game experience before trying to take on the Dolphins’ defensive line. I can’t imagine making your first NFL start is ever easy, tack on the variable of doing it on the road and it’s easy to envision the multitude of challenges Daniels would be up against. But hey, at least he has some experience to fall back on.
In addition to looking like he was ready for The Show, Daniels earned high marks in his debut performance as he received a 77.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. Daniels earned an impressive 82.5 grade in pass protection from PFF. To put that in perspective, only eight guards have a better full-season passer rating of 83 or better. Among them is Kyle Long, whose 85.9 pass-block grade is the fifth best among qualifying NFL guards.
We figured Daniels would be in line for a promotion after a solid showing in his debut, even if it came in the form of a time share with Kush. But we never would have expected it to come because of an injury. Head Coach Matt Nagy hinted at the idea that splitting time between the rookie and veteran is a plan the team could continue to follow, but seeing Kush on the injury report could ultimately throw a wrench in that plan. And if Kush can’t go at all, at least the Bears recently signed an offensive lineman to their active roster who has experience in Nagy’s system.
Since the day the Bears drafted Daniels, it was always going to be “when” he would step into a starting role and not “if.” Depending on how the next two injury reports shake out, the “when” could be Sunday against the Dolphins.
*Sorry I’m not sorry, but I couldn’t help myself.