On the latest Bear Download podcast from Dan Wiederer and Brad Biggs, they interviewed Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy from the NFL combine, and while much of what he said was just a rehashing of his press conference, he did drop one interesting nugget.
When asked about the offensive line he indicated that the plan is to keep Cody Whitehair at center with James Daniels staying at left guard.
This is where they ended the 2018 season, but a position flip last offseason saw Daniels moving to center, the position he played in college at Iowa, with Whitehair sliding over to left guard. The two players were never able to get comfortable in their “new” positions at the start of the 2019 season and several miscommunications as well as misidentified pass protections, led to the Bears flipping them back.
In the Bear Download podcast Nagy mentioned a play early in the season where the center misidentified the mike linebacker, which led to the right guard missing his block, which led to a sack. Whitehair’s experience in the middle of the Bears offensive line helped with some of the issues that plagued the pass protection, as well as being able to be a stabilizing force between the 22-year old Daniels at left guard and the inexperienced Rashaad Coward at right guard.
My stance on shuffling offensive linemen has always been to put them in their positions and leave them alone, so hopefully this is the permanent home for Whitehair and Daniels. The o-line is a team within a team and they need to play alongside each other to learn how each player reacts to different situations. The trust that your teammate will be there when you pass off a stunt is something that takes time to gain. When do they pull off a double team to go to the next level? When should they squeeze down to close off a gap? Familiarity breeds confidence.
The Bears do have a new offensive line coach in Juan Castillo, so the players will likely be reevaluated once he gets them on the field, but if Whitehair and Daniels are allowed to grow together at center and left guard respectively, I feel they could become a cornerstone of the team.
Now about that right guard spot...