In the 2016 NFL draft, the Chicago Bears selected Cody Whitehair out of Kansas State in the second round. He played both guard and tackle during college. This April, the Chicago Bears selected James Daniels in the second round of the NFL draft. Daniels played center at the University of Iowa. As of this Friday, Whitehair is set to start at center this season and Daniels is competing to start at left guard. Both are struggling at their respective assigned position. What am I missing?
When Daniels was picked this spring, I assumed the obvious; Whitehair would return to his natural position at guard, where he started his college career and Daniels, one of the top rated centers in this year's draft and at only 20 years old, would replace him at center and cement himself there for the next decade. Simple enough right? Return Whitehair to where he belonged? Put Daniels in the position he was drafted to play? Remember, Whitehair was one of the top rated offensive lineman when he was drafted just two years ago and was projected to start at guard during his rookie season. That plan was only derailed when Josh Sitton was signed on the weekend of final cuts after the pre-season had ended. Although serviceable at center over the past two seasons, Whitehair has not reached his true potential as an offensive lineman. At the center position, he has struggled at times and it has especially noticeable this pre-season. During both practices and games, he seems good for at least one high snap. We need 2nd-year franchise savior Mitchell Tribusky worrying about running his progressions instead of whether or not the next snap will be over his head. One bad snap a game is not going to cut it this fall.
It is not like we are quitting on Whitehair by any means, but more that we are just calling this what it is; Whitehair was flexible for the Bears and a great team player. When Sitton was signed, he happily shifted positions to play where we needed him to play. I appreciated the sacrifice, but now that Sitton is gone and the guard spot is vacant, putting Whitehair in the best position to succeed only makes sense and that position would be the one he was originally drafted to play. It is a no-brainer decision. The only reason out not to make the switch would be if there was no one to play center, but we know this isn't true. Daniels is fresh out of the offensive line factory that is the University of Iowa. He excelled at center and is our center of the future. Inserting him into the starting center position and moving Whitehair to left guard is a win-win; both positions improve drastically. You keep one of our better lineman in the starting lineup and expect his play to improve now that he doesn't have to worry about snapping the football and you insert a natural center into.....the center position. Absolute rocket science.
I hear the excuse that we should keep Whitehair at center because he was Tribusky's center last year during the 12 games he started. Well, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Tribusky will not only get over it, but he will appreciate the switch if it means he won't have to jump out of the stadium to fetch one of Whitehair's snaps anymore. We don't want Tribusky to have a high snap be something he has to become familiar with. Instead, let's get him familiar with Daniels, a player who will snap the ball accurately. In fact, Michael Scott would call making this switch a win/win/win situation. Whitehair wins shifting to guard, a position that plays greater to his strengths; Daniels wins by playing his natural position on the line; Tribusky wins by no longer having to worry about where the ball is going to be snapped when playing out of the shotgun. Win/Win/Win.