The Chicago Bears celebrated thoroughly after Sunday’s big win over the Las Vegas Raiders. Understandably so. That team was 3-1 with one of the hottest offenses in the league. They were also at home. Not only did the Bears win the game, but they also imposed their will on both sides of the ball. The defense gave up just nine points while the offense ran for 145 yards. Physical domination.

The game itself was filled with several big plays. Khalil Mack sacking Derek Carr to prevent a two-point conversion. DeAndre Houston-Carson with an interception. Justin Fields’ huge conversion to Darnell Mooney on 3rd and 12 to set up a game-sealing field goal. One would think the team enjoyed re-watching those once they got back to Chicago. It turns out none of them was the most popular highlight.

That belonged to James Daniels.

That WWE-style block was the signature play of a great afternoon for Daniels. Not only was he a physical force in the running game, but he also didn’t allow a single pressure on Justin Fields across four quarters. The second straight time he’s done that. Teammates couldn’t get enough of that block on the Raiders safety, replaying it over and over during film study. Cody Whitehair had the highest of praise for his teammate.

What Daniels is doing can’t be overstated. Remember that he ended last season as the Bears’ left guard. When he returned from his pectoral injury, the coaches had decided to move him to right guard. A position he has never played before. Things didn’t start too well with some ugly performances against the Rams and Browns. However, it appears he has begun to settle into his new position, gaining confidence each week.

Chicago Bears know Daniels is playing for a lot

Remember that he is in the final season of his rookie contract. That means he will be a free agent in 2022. There is a lot of money at stake for him. That injury last season really delayed a lot of momentum he’d been building up to that point. If he continues to play like he did in Las Vegas, then there is a good chance he’ll end up getting that new contract. No doubt the Bears are hoping they’re the one to give it to him.

GM Ryan Pace has had some hits and misses along the offensive line during his tenure. Only one he’s drafted has ever made it to a second contract. That was Whitehair. James Daniels is well-positioned to be the second. That would give the front five a little needed stability as they try to figure out their situation at the tackle and center spots. Remember Jason Peters, Germain Ifedi, and Sam Mustipher are all free agents too.

The Bears need answers.

This next string of games will tell a lot about where Daniels really is. First comes a matchup with Kenny Clark and the Packers. Then Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh for Tampa Bay. Two weeks after that it’s Cameran Heyward for Pittsburgh. That is a big-time slate of challenges. If he plays well? It is a safe bet Daniels will get his money.

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Educated to be a writer at the prestigious Columbia College in Chicago, Erik has spent the past 10 years covering the Bears.