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10 Bears with the most to prove in 2023: Cody Whitehair

Whitehair heads back to the center position as he looks to re-establish himself as part of the new look Bears offensive line

Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We roll along in our look at the Chicago Bears who need to step up this year because they have the most to prove this season. So far we’ve looked at Kindle Vildor, Braxton Jones, Velus Jones, Trevis Gipson and Darnell Mooney. Next up, we had back into the interior and focus on the offensive line.

5. Cody Whitehair

Whitehair finds himself 5th on the list and certainly is the most senior member of the 10. Usually 31-year old offensive linemen that have made a Pro Bowl and earned a hefty second contract don’t have too much to prove at this point, but Whitehair certainly does.

Whitehair struggled some in 2020 and 2021. That shouldn’t be surprising, the Bears' offensive line was in shambles, and any lineman’s performance is going to be pulled down when there are subpar linemates next to him, and that certainly has been the case for Whitehair with the likes of Rashaad Coward, Alex Bars and Sam Mustipher.

In 2022, Whitehair earned the captain’s “C” and certainly looked the role as team leader and one of the better players on the offense as the season got underway. Whitehair looked far more like the guy that earned that second contract than the guy from the last couple of seasons that looked like his best football was behind him.

Whitehair was injured during the Giants game in October and missed the rest of that game plus four others. When he returned, he did not look like the same player he was in September. Whitehair suffered another injury later in the year, missed another game, and wasn’t too sharp after that as well.

This year, Whitehair moves back to center. Whitehair has had snapping issues in the past when he’s manned that position so that’s something this offense can’t have this season. This offense is improved and should put together more drives and score more points this year, but the easiest way to derail drives is with self-inflicted wounds, and we certainly can’t have much of that this season.

Beyond that, Whitehair needs to prove that the football we saw out of him in September is something that he can continue over the course of 17 games. Beyond that, we need to see that his body can hold up at this age. Prior to last year, Whitehair has always been durable, only missing two games in his entire career prior to last season. But suffering two injuries last year at age 30 can be a sign that the body isn’t holding up like it used to. Whitehair needs to prove that last year was an anomaly and not the new norm.

Ryan Poles addressed plenty of positions this past offseason, but two positions he chose not to address were edge and center. Most believe that edge wasn’t addressed because of how things broke in free agency and in the draft, but center wasn’t addressed by choice. Poles was confident he had a capable center (or centers) on the roster and being it’s Whitehair’s job to lose, he clearly has the most confidence in him.

Whitehair is under contract for two more years. He has an opportunity to re-establish himself as the team’s center and be able to hold that position down for at least the next two years, possibly longer if he plays well enough.

But if Whitehair struggles this year, either on the field or staying on the field, he could easily find himself looking for a new team in 2024.