Chicago Bears rookie guard James Daniels made his first career start on Sunday. How did the rookie look with his first full workload?
While James Daniels has been incorporated into the Chicago Bears offense already, he has only played in a rotational role in each of the last three games. So, James Daniels was not necessarily thrown into the water cold.
However, he was tossed into a full game scenario for the first time in his career. He started the game, he did not alternate time and helped grind the game out to a victory. Daniels played a career-high 66 snaps on Sunday. How did he fare?
Let’s start with the good. There were absolutely some positive plays to take away from his first career start. The first play is linked here. James Daniels is pulling all the way across the line of scrimmage to seal off the edge defender so that Jordan Howard can cut up the middle. While traffic in the middle hits the run play, this is a solid attempt by Daniels.
Daniels is able to spring out and across the line of scrimmage. He gets a good connection on Marcus Maye, and although he does completely take Maye out, he is once again able to shove him to finish his block.
We knew that using Daniels in the pulling game was one of the best attributes that he brought to the table. Showing some success in that early on is a key factor.
James Daniels was also involved in the longest Tarik Cohen rush attempt of the game. The play in linked here. He is taking on Henry Anderson and looking to push him left to right. He is able to get good pad level on Anderson and force him out of his way. While Kyle Long provided some help, Daniels was on his way to pancaking Anderson on his own. This play is worth noting because while his athleticism to move on the line was a plus pre-draft, his playing strength was arguably why he was not on the field sooner.
The next play is linked here. This was most likely his best rep of the game. He is taking on Leonard Williams, the Jets best interior threat. Not only that, he is seeing a stunt. His first thought is that he is taking on Henry Anderson. However, Anderson backs away, and Williams comes barreling into him. This is a tough assignment for anyone.
However, Daniels held his ground. He was able to pick up Williams and keep the pocket clean.
One last play came on a Jordan Howard run. The play is linked here. Howard is going straight up the middle on this run initially. However, he kicks it outside. Luckily for Howard, both Daniels and Charles Leno are holding their blocks on the outside, giving him a cut back lane. Howard was able to hit the hole and stride into open field free.
Of course, a rookie with a full workload was not going to set the world on fire. Lets take the first play here. He is pulling again, and shows good speed to get across the line once again.
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However, one-on-one with Darron Lee in space, he lets Lee slip away from him. Lee is able to slide free and make the tackle. This is a play where Daniels got 95% of the job done; he just didn’t finish.
The play here brings just as much question to his playing strength as the pancake to Anderson brought in confirmation. The rookie defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd was able to get the best of him with an armbar. He flexes on Daniels and Daniels ends up on the ground. This is more disappointing than a typically lost rep considering it was against a fellow rookie.
Daniels lost another rep against Shepherd later in the game as well. The play is linked here. In this play, Shepherd does an excellent job of fighting Daniels with his hands. He can smack Daniels hands away and then drive him back, forcing Trubisky to get rid of the ball quicker than anticipated.
Lastly, is a small little note to pick up moving forward. The play is linked here. Cody Whitehair is one-on-one and is being driven back a bit. James Daniels is left without an assignment on this play. He should be looking to help clean up some defensive lineman on either side of him. He is looking to help and tries to slide to Charles Leno, but the rush is moving away from him. He needs to pick up Whitehair struggling and help him with a chip block.
This is an area where Eric Kush has excelled. Arguably to his detriment sometimes, but Kush is always looking to help. Daniels needs to develop the mentality to look for blocks to clean up and seek out help on either side of him.
At the end of the day, his performance was on par for a rookie in his first start. He showed a lot of upside but showed issues with consistency in the same areas. With Kyle Long expected to be out a brief time, it seems as though Daniels will be locked into a starting spot moving forward. Now, it will be time to see how he progresses on a week to week basis.