Matt Nagy has resisted making changes to the offensive lineup thus far in 2019. That’s not a surprise. He was hoping that consistency from week to week would help the system to function better as the season went along. Sadly it hasn’t worked out that way. One of the most puzzling parts of the issue is the offensive line. After playing so well in 2018 and sending two of their number to the Pro Bowl, the group has regressed quite a bit this year.
They’re on pace to allow 44 sacks, which would be 11 more than the previous year. On top of that, running backs are averaging just 3.6 yards per carry behind their blocking. It’s hard to pinpoint where the exact problem is. Part of it is penalties, another is health (Kyle Long going on IR) and then it’s simple ineffectiveness. One player who embodies this is center James Daniels. He’s struggled most of the year, allowing way more pressures than he did at guard last season.
Another problem that Nagy alluded to when discussing the second-year man is trouble with communication.
“I think that right now, all in all, he’s learning the position. We could all be better… We’re learning with that process. The communication thing is big, we want to keep growing in that area, but he’s working hard.”
Blocking was a huge part of the Bears’ loss in Philadelphia last week and Daniels was the weak link, getting bulldozed repeatedly by Fletcher Cox. So is it a coincidence that a Twitter feed called Four Star Sports reported the apparently the Bears had shifted Cody Whitehair back to center in practice?
Obviously the source is questionable, but what made it more interesting was when Nagy got asked about the possibility during his Thursday press conference. Rather than shoot the idea down outright, this was his answer instead.
Matt Nagy didn’t confirm but his answer spoke volumes
Nagy is beginning to understand that his patience with the process needs to have a limit. His spread offense with the heavy RPO concepts hasn’t worked with Mitch Trubisky struggling. Thus he’s begun to incorporate a more traditional I-formation with a fullback, bootlegs and play action. It’s had some positive effects, but not enough. There are still issues up front. So perhaps Nagy is reaching the conclusion that his offensive line was simply better when Whitehair was in the middle and Daniels at guard.
It’s not a crazy idea. Their original play may have been to put Daniels at center given the success he had at Iowa. However, it’s apparent he’s lacking something need to excel there in the NFL. He was far more effective at guard where he could just execute his blocks and not have to worry about calling out protections. Nothing is confirmed one way or another. Still, it’s interesting that the Bears head coach left the door open.