Does this Chicago Bears lineman deserve another shot at center
After the Chicago Bears opened a 21-day window for Teven Jenkins to return from the IR, there have been plenty of questions about what the Chicago Bears should do on their offensive line to finish out the year. Jenkins is their future, but the question is how do they make changes to the current lineup without making things worse?
One thing that may can agree on is that Sam Mustipher is the weak link of the line, and if there is a way to get Jenkins into the lineup while removing Mustipher, it would be the biggest win. Of course, that is not as simple as putting Jenkins in at center.
However, the Chicago Bears have two guards who both have plenty of center experience. The issue is that both of them have proven to be better at guard than center. For Cody Whitehair, this is pretty clear. We have a long sample of the veteran performing better on the inside, then struggling at center.
However, for James Daniels the sample is a bit smaller, and may cause for him to deserve a shot at center again.
Chicago Bears should give James Daniels another shot at center
To start, when he was drafted, many thought the intention was for him to be their long term center. Daniels was a stud center at Iowa. However, he was 20 years old when he was drafted, and needed to add muscle to anchor a defense. So, the Bears moved him to guard to start his career with the intention that he would move to center year two.
In year two Daniels moved to center and it was not good. He is still had issues anchoring and losing to power, but most of all he could not get on the same page with Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky and Whitehair are great friends to this day and have a connection. Daniels was green and struggled to pick things up. Trubisky was never the strongest quarterback mentally, so the duo failed together.
In the past two years, Daniels has played guard, and while a season ending injury derailed his 2020, his past two years are a huge upgrade from the first two.
James Daniels still could be the Chicago Bears future at center
On one hand, it can be argued that Daniels should not be moved because they found a good role for him. On the other, the team had him at left guard in 2020 and right guard in 2021 and he did not miss a beat. Technically, he has started somewhere different every year of his career.
Perhaps it took Daniels another year to get to the physical capacity needed for center. He was the youngest lineman in his draft class, after all. Beyond that, with Justin Fields, he does not have a quarterback who was used to Whitehair and now is being switched.
In fact, communication between Fields and Mustipher is a big reason the team needs to make the switch. The rookie and the UDFA cannot get on the same page. Daniels is now physically more mature, but also mentally.
There is a chance that Fields and Daniels can develop the connection Trubisky had with Whitehair. As noted, Daniels is just 24 years old. He has a shot to be on this line for a long time coming. If he can make the switch to center and him and Fields get on the same page, the team could have a batter that they trust for a long time. It would scratch off needing a center this offseason, and would take away all of the time needed to build up chemistry in 2022.
The Bears might as well let Daniels get another shot at center. If he fails, they have already seen him do just fine at guard. If he succeeds, they have their future at center, which is a major win.