The Chicago Bears offensive line has underachieved this season. A running theme dating back to last year. People have tried to figure out the source of the problems. Some blame “turnstile” left tackle Charles Leno or the injury to left guard James Daniels. Others blame the inability of Matt Nagy and his staff to coach them up properly. One guy who has escaped blame to this point is Cody Whitehair.
After a brief stint at left guard in 2019, the former Pro Bowler is back at his original position of center. It was felt this move was necessary because Daniels seemed unable to properly communicate at the position and recognize what defenses were trying to do. It exposed how poor Mitch Trubisky was at making adjustments in protection.
It seems not everybody is letting Whitehair off the hook though.
The Bears have a long history of producing great centers. Two of the absolute best, Olin Kreutz and Jay Hilgenberg, haven’t been satisfied with what they’ve seen out of #65 this year. His protection has looked inconsistent at best while his play recognition has especially stood out as a problem. Kreutz explained what that means to Adam Jahns of The Athletic.
Subscribe to the BFR Podcast for analysis, insight, and discussion about Chicago Bears football.
“Part of the Bears’ problems is when you watch their film is that Cody’s not doing a very good job recognizing these run blitzes coming at them,” Kreutz said. “If you watch the Tampa Bay game, Alex Bars comes in and he slides away from Alex Bars immediately. To me, that’s a problem. We talk about Mitch Trubisky having awareness, same thing at the center position. You have to be aware of everything that’s going on around him.”
Cody Whitehair has to recognize strengths and weaknesses
Hilgenberg went on to say that Whitehair needs to be better about recognizing where his line is weak and where the defense is strong. Then it’s his job to assist in situations where one is on the other. For example whenever the Los Angeles Rams try to isolate Aaron Donald on left guard Rashaad Coward tonight. A clear mismatch. If Whitehair allows that matchup to take place without help? That’s his failure.
The truth is people are right to expect more from him. Chicago made him one of the highest-paid centers in the NFL last year. They did that feeling he was their best and most reliable blocker. Somebody capable of playing at a Pro Bowl level as he did in 2018. While Whitehair can’t be called the weak link of this front, he also hasn’t played up to those expectations.
Could that change in the coming weeks?
It’s possible. Don’t forget the Bears made a switch at offensive line coach this offseason. Juan Castillo brings a far different blocking scheme to the table. He coaches linemen differently and is renowned for being extremely detailed. That can take time for blockers to absorb. Even veterans like Whitehair. Maybe things will start to mesh given a little more time.
The center himself admitted the offensive line isn’t where they want to be. It’s a work-in-progress. At 5-1, Chicago is in a position where they can be patient. Still, things change fast in the NFL. If they hit a skid in the near future, one can bet the pressure will mount on them in a big way. Cody Whitehair is an okay player but he’s getting paid to be a really good one. It’s time he started doing more to earn his money. Kreutz and Hilgenberg believe he can get there.