65 Days Until Chicago Bears 2017 Season Kicks Off: Cody Whitehair Profile

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 11: Cody Whitehair
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 11: Cody Whitehair /

The Bear Goggles On Countdown to Kickoff series is now underway. With 65 days to go until the Bears season kicks off we will highlight the Bears player that is wearing number 65, Offensive Lineman, Cody Whitehair.

CHICAGO, IL – DECEMBER 18: Cody Whitehair
CHICAGO, IL – DECEMBER 18: Cody Whitehair /

2016 Review

Cody Whitehair was a pleasant surprise as a rookie for the Bears in 2016. He was selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL draft after a standout career at Kansas State. Early in the preseason, starting center Hroniss Grasu went down with an injury, forcing Whitehair to move to the center position. Whitehair went on to start all 16 games for the Bears. Although he was playing a complicated position, he was able to transition nicely with veteran guards Josh Sitton and Kyle Long right next to him. The combination of the three made for one of the best interior offensive lineman groups in the league.

Not only did Cody Whitehair just get by as a rookie, he was one of the better players on the entire team. He was rewarded for his excellent season by being named to the all-rookie team by the Pro Football Writers of America. He also received praise from other publications including the numbers driven Pro Football Focus. In an article ranking the best offensive line units in the NFL (the Bears finished 15th), Whitehair was rated as one of the best centers in the league. He was the 6th rated center overall finishing with a grade of 87.2. He was also the 6th best overall run blocker finishing with a grade of 82.2.

In recent years, rookie NFL offensive linemen have been struggling. With changes made to the last CBA, teams are getting less and less time with players and rookies in the off-season. It doesn’t help that the transition the players have to make strength wise is still something that has to be dealt with. Expecting a rookie lineman to contribute right away is a tough ask, but asking him to excel is almost crazy. Cody Whitehair was everything the Bears could’ve wanted in 2016, and much more.

Expectations for 2017

Expectations are high for Whitehair and his position group heading into 2017. The NFL is a what have you done for me lately league. Even if a player was a solid contributor in prior years, the same and if not more is expected to stay on the field these days. Although Grasu should be healthy for the Bears this year, they do not intend to rock the boat, keeping Whitehair at center.

There is slightly added pressure to the offensive line this year for two reasons. For one, fellow 2016 rookie standout, RB Jordan Howard, has a chance to capture the NFL rushing title this year. After a 1,300+ yard season last year, finishing second in the NFL. The sophomore RB has his sights set on the rushing title in 2017. The second reason is that the Bears invested money and a high draft pick on the QB position this off-season. No matter who is under center, there is good reason to keep those players jersey’s clean. Chances at special numbers and new opportunities are the types of things that keep offensive line units motivated.

After a stellar rookie season, the sky is the limit for Cody Whitehair going into 2017 and beyond. The Bears are a young team and are counting on young players like Whitehair, Howard, and Trubisky to be the building blocks of the offense going forward.