Quarterback Mitch Trubisky is the headliner. Safety Eddie Jackson is a play-making game-changer. Running back Tarik Cohen is a do-it-all spark plug. Wide receiver Anthony Miller is the grinder. Linebacker Roquan Smith is a silent, but deadly force in the middle of the field. And I can go on.
Short-version: the Chicago Bears’ last two draft classes have been both very fruitful and instrumental to the team’s 7-3 start. And it won’t be long until left guard James Daniels joins that group.
Daniels drew praise from NFL analyst Brian Baldinger for his play against the Minnesota Vikings in the Bears’ primetime win on Sunday Night Football. Baldinger name-dropped stud Bears lineman like Mark Bortz, Jay Hilgenberg, and Tom Thayer before diving into the tape, so you know he came away impressed with what he saw.
So let’s just dive into the analysis from someone who sounds geeked about breaking down tape of a standout Bears rookie:
.@ChicagoBears @jamsdans is one impressive rookie. It’s hard to find true “earth movers “ and it starts with his takeoff, the leverage the wide base and the hands. It’s amazing to find a lineman that keeps his hands inside 💯💯💯. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/E6m4LQN7P8
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) November 20, 2018
Did you catch that “garbage disposal” line? I mean, that’s a random, but apt way to compliment a lineman doing what he does best. Daniels is literally disposing pass-rushers and rush-defenders left and right in primetime, all while looking like a seasoned vet. For Daniels to do what he did against a top-tier defensive line is great. But for it to happen with the football world watching on a big stage says a lot about how much he has grown as a rookie.
This is where I’d usually drop in some hot-to-trot stats that further explain Daniels’ growth. Unfortunately, there isn’t an all-encompassing number that can accurately depict an offensive lineman’s performance. So when an analyst digs in with praise for a player’s performance the way the Baldinger does with Daniels, it’s almost as valuable as any metric we could have at our disposal.
Daniels wasn’t our focus on Sunday night, but the fact that we didn’t notice Linval Joseph or premier free agent acquisition Sheldon Richardson all night meant that the interior of the offensive line was doing a number on Minnesota’s top two interior defensive linemen. For the tape to show that Daniels did more than hold his own against those guys only confirms what we knew beneath the surface. Way to go, rook! We knew you had it in you the whole time.