Bears rookie offensive lineman James Daniels stretches in training camp. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

James Daniels or Eric Kush? It’s still a competition at left guard for Bears

SHARE James Daniels or Eric Kush? It’s still a competition at left guard for Bears
SHARE James Daniels or Eric Kush? It’s still a competition at left guard for Bears

While several Bears starters entertained questions about coach Matt Nagy’s decision to rest them Saturday against the Chiefs, rookie offensive lineman James Daniels stood in the corner of the locker room and discussed how much he enjoyed playing in the preseason game.

‘‘It was nice to be able to play against starters from a different team because our starters, they know exactly how we block,’’ Daniels said Monday. ‘‘It was nice to get a different look from different people.’’

Daniels played all 62 offensive snaps against the Chiefs and described the experience as ‘‘valuable’’ several times. Of course, there is a starting job for Daniels to win. It was valuable playing time.

Even though the Bears’ preparations for the Packers in Week 1 are underway, Nagy said the offensive line isn’t fully in place yet. He made it clear that Daniels remains in a competition with Eric Kush to start at left guard. For the time being, the Bears appear content to keep Cody Whitehair at center.

‘‘That’s the fun part for us,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘It’s a good battle between those two guys, and I have a lot of trust in [offensive line coach Harry Hiestand] and what he believes and where he’s at. We’ll talk together on it as a staff.’’

But it’s a battle Daniels should win at some point, whether that’s in Week 1 or in mid-October or whether it involves moving Whitehair to guard down the road.

Daniels was the 39th overall pick in the draft. His talent is obvious at times. There also are signs he is developing under Hiestand.

According to Pro Football Focus, Daniels has not allowed a sack, a quarterback hit or a hurry on 87 pass-blocking snaps — 80 of which have come at center — during the preseason.

Daniels played his first 39 snaps against the Chiefs at center, with Kush at left guard. Behind them, backup quarterback Chase Daniel completed 15 of 18 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns for a 149.5 passer rating. The Chiefs also didn’t sack Daniel.


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Daniels handled all the calls up front in the first half with the help of his veteran quarterback.

‘‘Chase helped a lot,’’ Daniels said. ‘‘The O-line, everybody was helping me. If I’d go up to the line and if I’d stutter a little bit, everybody would help me. I really appreciate that from everybody else trying to help me if I have trouble with a call.’’

It’s those troubles that make Whitehair a better option right now at center. In the second half, Daniels switched to left guard for 23 offensive plays, with Hroniss Grasu taking over at center. Quarterback Tyler Bray went 5-for-7 for 72 yards and had a 104.5 passer rating. He also wasn’t sacked.

‘‘It’s just nice being to able play [against] different positions,’’ Daniels said. ‘‘[It’s] getting different looks, different types of rushes, having defenders play differently against my blocks.’’

Overall, Nagy thought Daniels played well against the Chiefs. He faced rookie defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, a third-round selection from Florida State, throughout the game, but he also went against more experienced linemen in Jarvis Jenkins and Mike Purcell.

‘‘I thought [Daniels] played, for the most part, pretty well,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘There were one or two plays where he lost his balance a little bit, but, for the most part, I was happy with where he was at.’’

Daniels lost his balance during running back Benny Cunningham’s 13-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Nnadi made contact with Cunningham in the backfield, but Daniels finished his block on Nnadi and essentially overpowered him to the ground. The block enabled Cunningham to break to the outside and score.

‘‘Again, for [Daniels], just being able to get that experience, it was a positive for him,’’ Nagy said.

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