It’s OTAs SZN at Halas Hall and a changing of the guard appears to be here:
Matt Nagy says he feels good about moving James Daniels to center. #Bears
— Zack Pearson (@Zack_Pearson) May 22, 2019
James Daniels is going to play center, #Bears coach Matt Nagy said. That puts Cody Whitehair at left guard
— Patrick Finley (@patrickfinley) May 22, 2019
BOOM! There it is!
Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy told reporters at Halas Hall that James Daniels will slide from left guard to center, while Cody Whitehair vacates the center position to move to left guard. With OTAs opening up, there is no better time to put a much-talked-about position switch into motion.
The Bears have spent the offseason hinting at a position swap that would send a pair of second-round draft picks back to their original positions, and now it’s actually happening. Wonderful news! There was no sense of wasting time, especially since we’re talking about a move featuring players in the trenches.
It started in March with Head Coach Matt Nagy throwing out the possibility of the position swap ahead of the NFL’s Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. That talk continued into April when GM Ryan Pace brought it up before last month’s NFL Draft. And in early May, quarterback Mitch Trubisky tossed fuel to the fire surrounding the position switch. Clearly, this move is something that has been in the works for some time. Now that it’s happening, let’s talk about its ramifications.
Trubisky will be impacted most here as he’ll be taking snaps from a new center for the first time since his rookie season when injuries led to Whitehair moving around the line to fill gaps elsewhere. But unlike 2017, Daniels appears to be the team’s long-term solution at the position. I suppose making that move at this point of the respective careers of Trubisky and Daniels should allow for ample time for QB1 to get acquainted with his new snap-exchange partner.
But beyond Trubisky dealing with a new center, this isn’t a move that should rock the boat.
Whitehair was drafted as a guard out of Kansas State in 2016 after spending some time at left tackle in his final season with the Wildcats. He was a four-time All-Big-12 player who started 51 of 52 possible games, but ended up at center when the team signed Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton as a free agent before the start of the 2016 season. And while Whitehair proved to be a solid center (you know, when he wasn’t forced to move around the line because those around him couldn’t stay healthy), he could be best served utilizing his talents at guard where he can have more of an impact on the running game and in pass protection. Certainly, Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, David Montgomery, and others would appreciate if that turned out to be the case.
Daniels was a standout center at Iowa, but the Bears insisted they drafted him as a guard. One of the more decorated interior offensive line draft prospects selected in 2017, Daniels was an Academic All-Big Ten and Honorable Mention all-conference performer in 2017 who also earned first-team sophomore All-American honors a year earlier. As a rookie, a ton of love poured in from around the football world for what Daniels did in his first season as a pro. Daniels earned All-Rookie honors from Pro Football Focus and was an all-rookie performer in the eyes of the folks at ESPN and CBS Sports. Not bad for a guy who started the year behind Eric Kush on the depth chart.
Now, I suppose the Bears could always go back to what they had last year with Whitehair at center and Daniels at guard. After all, we’ve seen how well that particular combination worked last year as the Bears put together one of the best offensive lines in football. HOWEVER, it’s possible that this swap sets that group up to be even better in the year to come. At minimum, it’s nice having the first position battle settled this quickly. If they can all be so easy moving forward.