James Daniels didn’t begin the season as the starting left guard, wasn’t in the rotation until late September, and didn’t receive a full snap share until late October. But that didn’t stop Daniels from playing his way onto Pro Football Focus’ All-Rookie Team for 2018.
Here is what Cam Mellor had to say about how the Chicago Bears left guard and University of Iowa product earned his spot among the league’s top rookies:
“Daniels has the ability to play across the interior of the offensive line in Chicago, and he demonstrated some of his impressive play to the tune of the third-highest grade among rookie interior linemen. He didn’t allow a single sack and just 20 total pressures on his 432 pass-blocking snaps this year.”
DANG! That’s some quality blocking from a guy who turned 21 in September.
So with that in mind, perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the Bears line received a boost once James Daniels was entrenched as the team’s left guard.
Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 offensive lines after a season’s worth of games and the Bears were among the best of the bunch. Chicago’s offensive line ranked as the 11th best in football by PFF’s grading standards. Checking in just outside of the top-10 is nothing to be ashamed of, especially when you take into consideration where the group was at the end of last year. Remember, the Bears’ offensive line battled injuries and struggled to settle in on a lineup in 2017. Their troubles piled up and the offensive line ended up allowing 152 pressures, 109, hurries, and 26 quarterback hits, which is a significant amount of pressure if you think about how often the Bears didn’t pass.
PFF’s Michael Renner writes the Bears featured the NFL’s second-best pass-blocking offensive and views the unit as not having a weak link. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr., right tackle Bobby Massie, and center Cody Whitehair were all above average at their respective positions. Add in three-time Pro Bowler Kyle Long and it’s a group that looks better now than it did a few months ago when Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann were rotating at right guard. Pile on what Daniels has done for this group and you can see why they’re right there among the best in football.
If you watched yesterday’s playoff action, then you know how valuable sturdy offensive line play can be to a team’s success. It didn’t take long for the Indianapolis Colts to set an example for the Bears to follow as they search for their first playoff win in 2,912 days.
Not that anyone is counting.
The Colts used a punishing offensive line to take the heart out of the Houston Texans early. Between a strong running game and precise play action passes, Indianapolis had a winning formula that has been proven to work in the postseason. But it doesn’t work if the offensive line isn’t a strength. As fate would have it, the Bears’ line – now that it’s at full strength – should allow the Monsters of the Midway to conjure up a similar formula.