Chicago Bears: Analyzing upgrade of Cody Whitehair at center

Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

When the Chicago Bears moved Cody Whitehair back to center, and James Daniels back to guard, things got better.

The Chicago Bears offensive line struggled last season. Nobody can deny that. However, a lot of the issues surrounding the line stemmed from Bobby Massie missing six games, and Rashaad Coward, a UDFA who has only played at right tackle playing right guard for the first time in his life at the NFL stage.

That was the biggest issue, but James Daniels was also holding the team back at center. After starting at left guard as a rookie, he was expected to transition to his more natural position of center. However, he could not get on the same page with Mitch Trubisky in communication, and the offense was out of whack with Daniels at center.

The Bears started Daniels at center from Week 1-9 and moved him back to guard from Weeks 10-17. So, he saw half the season at one and half at the other.

With Daniels at center, the Bears ranked 32nd in the NFL in rushing success rate with just 38% of runs being a success. They achieved an 18% first down rate on the ground. When he moved to guard, The Bears had a 48% success rate and 26% first down rate, moving them up to 17th in the NFL. That is a pretty vast upgrade, especially when it is a clear split that started halfway through the year.

Beyond that, when looking at pass-blocking efficiency (PBE) according to PFF, the Bears ranked 20th through the first half of the season. When they moved Daniels to guard, their PBE went from 84 to 89.1, and 20th to 5th in the NFL. This is a steep rise.

When you look at the strength of schedule, there is not a difference in opponents from the first half to the second. The Bears themselves just improved in that span.

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Is switching Daniels to guard and Whitehair to center the answer to all of the Chicago Bears issues? Likely not. Still, it did result in an upgrade on the fly. There is a chance that with the continuity this season that they can take another step forward, and Daniels and Whitehair specifically can grow as a duo.