Chicago Bears Film Review: Grading James Daniels 2020

Chicago Bears - Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears - Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

James Daniels 2020 season has come to an end early. How did he perform in the Chicago Bears first five games?

The Chicago Bears losing James Daniels in Week 5 of the 2020 season is devastating in a variety of ways. The team does not have great depth, and that will be questioned as the year goes on. However, most pain goes out to James Daniels, who was putting things together in year three.

Now, the book is shut on Daniels as he enters the 2021 season, which will be his fourth and final season on a rookie salary. It came faster than expected, but now the Bears front office has to decide whether to offer an extension to Daniels or have him enter 2021 with a chance to excel and bump up his market.

There have been plenty of questions with Daniels through two years, and 2020 was supposed to be the all-telling year on what the team has in Daniels. So, while it was only five games, these games should be put under a magnifying glass. He was not a rookie, he did not move positions and he played in the scheme that will be around in 2021.

So, what did the video say about the future of James Daniels in Chicago?

Run game

As noted, the scheme moved from a more power-heavy approach to an outside zone scheme under Juan Castillo. You can make the case that one of the biggest reasons this move was made was to highlight James Daniels. Daniels is an athletic guard, who was drafted for his fluidity and footwork. However, he was drafted at age 20 and was drafted for his upside. He has not filled out yet, and strength has been his issue.

In the outside zone scheme, it gets Daniels moving laterally, and into space much more often than it has him face to face with a defender who is stronger than him.  James Daniels only played 104 run blocking snaps in 2020, however, according to PFF, he did have his highest grade.

The play below is a perfect example of how the Bears were able to make the most of Daniels skill set in 2020. He is clean off of the line, and is able to get into the second level and get his hands on the linebacker. David Montgomery burst into the second level thanks to his block.

On the play below, we see Daniels take out two birds with one stone. Again, he is moving laterally and into the second level off of the football. He does not have to finish off, John Penisini, the nose tackle, but he gets him off course. Then, he gets to the second level to take out Jaime Collins.

We see similarities in the play below. Grady Jarrett was a menace for the Chicago Bears and was lined up between Daniels and Leno. Daniels gives Jarrett a shoulder and gives Leno a step to catch up with Jarrett. Then, Daniels is working to the second level again. Notice how he perfectly covers up his man.

Lastly, we see Daniels pull laterally to seal a huge running lane for Tarik Cohen up the middle. The block from Germain Ifedi helps, and the change in run scheme certainly aided his transition to guard. Again, you notice that nobody is lined up over, and he gets out of his stance clean. This is Daniels at his best.

Sealing running lanes

The athleticism and fluidity is hard to notice in the two examples below, but this skill set is exactly why the Chicago Bears drafted James Daniels. Watch his hips the play below as he moves from left to right. As he is pushing his man to the side, he is flipping his body as well to seal a wall. You can see that Cordarelle Patterson missies the hole that the offensive line was creating.

You can see the same here. Unfortunately, David Montgomery pressed the hole too quickly and did not see the backside block until he was too close to the line. However, watch Daniels hips again as he is able to turn his body parallel to the sideline and seal off aside for Montgomery to cut up. Jimmy Graham and his blocking hurt things as well, but once again we see that this scheme is designed for a player such as Daniels.

Run Game Loss

Daniels has had his issues. The strength of the Colts defense gave him troubles, and he did not see Vita Vea enough to be truly tested. Another 10 games would have been great to see him against others. However, his issues do remain his play strength.

Even in the play below he pulls, which is to his benefit. However, the edge linebacker shrugs him off and makes the tackle in the backfield. Unfortunately for him, an upper body injury putting him on IR means an offseason of recovery and not an offseason of strength gaining.

Pass protection

Overall, Daniels was not credited for a single sack allowed. He was credited for eight pressures allowed, which led to three quarterback hits. Still, that puts him at 20th of 64 starters in pass block efficiency according to PFF.

Daniels has been solid, and while strength has not been an issue, the only reoccurring issue that came up on tape was the swim move. It is fair that in the play below, Danny Shelton starts the move off by getting Daniels off balance due to a shove with his right arm.

Daniels is stumbling to the right, and Shelton stops and swims over him to put pressure in the face of Mitch Trubisky.

The issue is that this has suddenly become a theme. Marlon Davidson, a rookie from Auburn got Daniels on a similar move. However, unlike Shelton, Davidson did not get his hands on him first. Davidson got through with ease over Daniels.

DeForest Buckner is playing like a defensive player of the year candidate. However, this is too easy against James Daniels. If Daniels is going to struggle with this move against Davidson, Buckner was bound to beat him with ease. All three were some of the cleanest losses, which shows something Daniels needs to work on.


One area where Daniels has excelled is stunts. Last year, with the communication between Daniels, Cody Whitehair, and Rashaad Coward, the Bears were guessing too often. Whitehair at center helped things, and Daniels next to Leno has been strong at stunts.

In the play below, the two linebackers twist as blitzers. Daniels stays with his man a little too long, however, he finds a way to shuffle his feet, rebound, and pick up Collins as he came crashing in.

The play below is pretty between Whitehair and Daniels. Daniels stayed patient with his feet and Whitehair passed off John Cominsky right to Daniels for an easy pickup.

We see Daniels pick up two blitzers who are stunting, and we saw him and Whitehair work together. Below, it is Charles Leno and Daniels passing off a stunt to perfection. Daniels is the one passing his man off this time, as he clearly recognized the play. He picks up his man with ease for a perfect pick up.


James Daniels is finished with three seasons in the NFL, and has not broken out in the way many Chicago Bears fans had hoped. However, the arrow was trending in the right direction this season before he got hurt.

Next. Grading Bears OL through five weeks. dark

The hypothesis was that in a new run scheme, and with better communication coming from Whitehair at center, that Daniels would be better. Through five games, that was clear. Daniels is never going to be a power blocker who rolls people over, but he excels when he is able to get into the second level, or tasked with pulling across the line.

Coming off of a pectoral injury it is fair to say he will not gain strength, but Daniels will enter 2021 as a 24-year-old, which presents plenty of upside. Despite questions, the Bears could certainly look to lock up Daniels this offseason on a cheaper deal, knowing that age 25-28 is going to be the best to come.

2020 Grade: B