Chicago Bears Film Room: James Daniels should start immediately
While it was just one start in the preseason, James Daniels has proven that he ready to see starter snaps immediately
Rookie second-round pick James Daniels entered training camp in a battle with Eric Kush. Daniels has been behind Kush early into camp, and Kush started beside Cody Whitehair in the Week One of the preseasons.
While Kush did give up a sack, it was to Geno Atkins. It is hard to push a player down the depth chart because of that. Still, even if Kush played outstanding on Thursday, it would be tough to justify continuing to start him over Daniels after what the team saw from him at the center position.
Although against a drop in competition-Daniels did not square off with Geno Atkins-James Daniels looked like an experienced veteran at center when it came to his movement and understanding skills.
The four plays below can exemplify his performance.
Early into his first NFL snaps, we see Daniels execute a combination block to perfection. You can see that he helps push the defensive tackle into Earl Watford, from there Daniels is into the second level to tie up the linebacker. This type of movement to get into the second level so easy is rare at center. Let alone for a rookie, regardless of competition.
Below, we see Daniels pin down to the right and hold off the defensive tackle. The block helps free up 73, Will Pericak to pull around him. Again quick movements off of the snap followed by well-executed blocks.
The play below is a fine display of athleticism and understanding. Daniels is pulling to the bottom screen, guiding Ryan Nall into space. You can see out of the corner of his eyes he sees the linebacker rushing into the backfield to blow the play up potentially.
Daniels turns his body around, pick up the linebacker and seal off the backside of the run. Daniels displays impressive body control for someone as big as him moving into space as fast as he was.
We knew Daniels was a strong athlete. Being a center at Iowa, his acumen should have been substantial. One question he had was how he could hold up against NFL power. He ended up on the ground once or twice but held up in protection much more often.
In the play below we see him planting 92, Chris Baker into the ground. It is worth noting that Baker is going to make the Bengals roster.
James Daniels displayed traits and attributes that an NFL starter would in his first preseason game. The question becomes, where does he start?
Do you start James Daniels at center?
Yes. This is from someone who was completely fine with the idea of him moving to guard. However, Cody Whitehair only started at center because Hroniss Grasu got injured right before the season and the team signed Josh Sitton, who could slot in at left guard, but not center. Whitehair could play both, and the Bears moved him over due to roster purposes.
It was not necessarily their plan to keep him at center. In camp, Daniels did not start at center. However, Grasu is still hurt. Eric Kush can play center but is starting at guard. They signed Jack Allen and cut him. So, Daniels has started to get snaps at center.
It may not necessarily be the plan of Ryan Pace to start James Daniels this early at center either, but here we are. After a sophomore slump, and with his natural position being left guard, it does not feel like a troubling move to slide over to left guard.
Make the move…now!
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The idea is that the move would not be troubling given Whitehair would have two preseason games to get his feet back under him at left guard. He would likely get a couple of drives in the second preseason game, and then see an entire half at left guard in the third game.
These are valuable snaps not only for Whitehair, but also for Daniels next to the starters, and against starters. If this is going to happen, and useful snaps are on the line in Week Two, the Chicago Bears need to make the move on Monday.
We need to hear reports that Whitehair is moving to left guard. If not, the jumble is going to be happening during the course of the season. The Chicago Bears would be throwing these young linemen into the fire on the run, and actual essential games are going to be won or lost based on how fast he translates.
Eric Kush is a fine player. As a depth piece, you love him. However, we know how the story of Kush and Daniels ends. Daniels has displayed talent worth giving an increased look. Why not just make a move now, and head into the regular season with some continuity.