As we continue with the unlikeliest (sneaky) most important Bears for the 2018 season, we move on to center Cody Whitehair. If you missed number 4 on cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Bryce Callahan, you can find that here.
One of the oldest adages in football is that games are won and lost in the trenches. I wholeheartedly subscribe to this notion. If you can’t open holes, your running back won’t gain yards. If you can’t protect your quarterback, you can’t throw the ball. This concept is simple and has been proven time and time again.
While the left tackle is generally the superstar of the offensive line, you can make a pretty strong argument that center is the most important position. First off, it’s the only position on the field that touches the ball on every play. Sure the quarterback generally does that as well, but throw in some wildcat or direct snaps to a running back, and that distinction belongs solely to the center.
Another highly under-appreciated job of the center is to call out the “Mike” linebacker which determines which way the whole offensive line will block. If the center makes mistakes with the defensive front, it could lead to a poor play or even a turnover. The average football fan may not realize how important this job is, but it should not be understated.
The center is also the only offensive lineman that has to ensure the ball is in the hands of the quarterback—or running back—before engaging the defensive lineman or linebacker across from him. Centers must be strong enough to block a massive nose tackle and also athletic enough to get to the second level on combination blocks. In the Bears zone blocking scheme, this is immensely important.
Incumbent center Cody Whitehair is going to have to have a good season for this offense to reach its potential. While the Bears spent a draft pick on a college center in James Daniels, so far in camp it appears that Whitehair is going to be the man. There is a familiarity between he and Mitch Trubisky from last year that shouldn’t be discounted. While Daniels may ultimately end up as the center and Whitehair a guard, I don’t think it happens this year.
New Bears head coach Matt Nagy is still installing his offense which, by all accounts, is fairly complex. It makes sense to go with the 3rd year center out of Kansas State over a rookie. Another element to this is the addition of offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. The venerable coach is widely renowned for his ability to get the most from his players. Whitehair is in the best hands he’s ever been in, and that’s a great thing.
This offense has a ton of motion, a lot of complex looks and formations. So far in training camp, the Bears have consistently had a “check hut” where Trubisky has had a chance to survey the defense before making any further changes. It takes discipline to play center in this offense and I have full confidence that Whitehair is the right man for the job.
We are at the dawn of a new era of Bears football, one in which the offense is going to be cutting-edge, not the defense. At the center of all of that is the center, Cody Whitehair.