The Chicago Bears offensive line deserves credit for what happened in 2021. They started off well in September. Then injuries began to hit. James Daniels tore his pec. Bobby Massie hurt his knee. Both were lost for the year. Combined with a COVID-19 scare, things deteriorated fast. It reached a crisis point before the bye week when the Minnesota Vikings, who had one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL, knocked Nick Foles out of the game after harassing him all night.
Head coach Matt Nagy and his staff realized what they were trying wasn’t working. So during the bye, they decided to make some drastic changes. Germain Ifedi was moved from right guard to right tackle. Cody Whitehair shifted out of center to left guard. Then Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars, both former undrafted free agents, were inserted at center and right guard respectively.
The improvement was felt almost immediately.
Suddenly the Bears could run the ball better. David Montgomery finished with the best stretch of his career to crack 1,000 yards rushing. Mitch Trubisky returned and had solid enough protection for the most part, allowing him to lead the team on a late run to reach the playoffs after falling to 5-7. Suddenly the line looks stable, especially along the interior.
While that is a good thing, a big question was left unanswered. What are the Bears going to do with Daniels? Prior to getting hurt, the 23-year old guard was arguably their best blocker up front. He is a really good football player. They can’t in good conscience leave him on the bench. Yet it was obvious Whitehair played some of the best football of his career at left guard. So what do they do?
Nagy provided an answer in a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune.
James Daniels is plenty versatile enough to make the switch
The job of any coaching staff is to get the best five blockers on the field however possible. This is not a slight at Bars. He was solid last season for Chicago and is capable of being a starter in this league. It’s just that Daniels is better. He’s more talented and athletic. While left guard was his original spot, a switch to right guard shouldn’t be an issue for him. It would be an adjustment at first but nothing too crazy.
Remember he actually came out of college as a center from Iowa. The Bears moved him to left guard because they already had Whitehair in place. Initially, the plan was to switch the two but that didn’t work out. James Daniels wasn’t discouraged. He made a home at left guard and was playing the best football of his career before getting hurt. He’s still really young. Moving to the right side shouldn’t slow his progress much at all.
This would create an exciting interior trio.
Whitehair on the left, Daniels on the right, and Mustipher in the middle. That would allow the Bears to focus on trying to upgrade the tackle position this offseason. If done right, their offensive line could become a strength of the team moving forward. Perfect timing since they might end up landing a potential upgrade at quarterback as well.
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