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Is it time to bench Cody Whitehair?

The veteran lineman has had a rough start to the 2023 season.

Miami Dolphins v Chicago Bears Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Cody Whitehair has been a member of this Chicago Bears team for a long time.

He’s just one of three Bears that were on this team when John Fox was the head coach (Patrick Scales and Eddie Jackson are the others), and he’s started 110 games for the Chicago Bears over that time, in fact, he only missed two games during his first six NFL seasons.

But times have changed. Whitehair has seen Fox and Matt Nagy go, he’s seen Matt Eberflus come in. He’s had his share of offensive line coaches, from Chris Morgan to Juan Castillo, from Harry Hiestand to Jeremiah Washburn and Dave Magazu.

Father Time remains undefeated and he’s been coming for Whitehair’s football career the last couple of seasons, and it looks like he’s fully caught up with the veteran.

Whitehair has struggled mightily this year. He’s struggled to get out on the second level when needed, he’s struggled in pass pro reps, and he certainly hasn’t been landing blocks in open space. Whitehair has had at least three injuries that have forced him to miss games during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, and his body just doesn’t look like it can bounce back anymore.

After the Denver Broncos game, Teven Jenkins is eligible to return from IR. He may not start immediately, being the Bears will have a short week with a Thursday night game against Washington, but if he’s healthy, Jenkins will have to be out there in week six against the Minnesota Vikings.

The assumption has been that when Jenkins returns, that Whitehair moves back to center, but when Jenkins was originally injured, Matt Eberflus did not commit to that plan, presumably he was hoping the line would be clicking and perhaps Jenkins could remain on the bench, at least for a bit.

But the way the line has played, Jenkins is certainly one of the top 5 linemen available when he’s healthy. Larry Borom and Darnell Wright are the team’s best tackles, Nate Davis and Jenkins are the team’s best guards. The question is, who is the team’s best center?

The plan to try Cody Whitehair at center was always a flawed one, but it was one the Bears committed to. Now when Jenkins’ pending return, the Bears could move Whitehair back to center, but while Lucas Patrick has been poor at center, you can argue that Whitehair’s play at guard has been worse.

Dan Feeney is a wild card at center, nobody knows exactly how well he would play in this system with these linemates, but the unknown might be better at this point. It may sound harsh, but it could be argued that Whitehair would be the team’s third-best center option, fourth if you want to get wild and say Doug Kramer.

Whitehair has been a big part of this franchise for many years. He’s been a stable piece across the offensive line despite many changes around him. But we’ve reached a point in time where Whitehair’s play is more of a detriment than a benefit. With Jenkins returning, it may be time to send Cody Whitehair to the bench, and with young Ja’Tyre Carter, Davis and Jenkins and the centers we listed, if Eberflus does decide to send Whitehair to the second team, he may spend the rest of the season there.