Daniels easing into new role at ‘natural’ position

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James Daniels' move from guard to center this offseason has been a smooth one so far for the second-year pro. But quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is still getting accustomed to hearing his teammate’s voice.

“He’s doing a great job,” Trubisky said. “He’s very smart, so the transition’s been very easy for him so far. I would say the only difference this year is that I’m finally hearing him talk. He didn’t talk much last year.”

Daniels is being more vocal not because his soft-spoken demeanor has changed but because it’s a vital part of his new job description. At center, he must regularly communicate with his quarterback, primarily about the snap and pass protection adjustments.

“Having him at center, we talk a lot more off the field and on the field as well,” Trubisky said. “Hearing him make calls, just that constant communication back and forth, it’s been great. I’ve seen a new side of him as well because the position change has forced him to talk a little more, be more vocal, and he’s doing a great job of it.”

Daniels started the final 10 games at left guard last season as a rookie, but he opened 23 games at center his final two seasons at Iowa. This offseason he has flipflopped spots with Cody Whitehair, who has started all 16 games in each of his three NFL seasons with the Bears at center, a position he never played in college. At Kansas State, Whitehair lined up at left guard early in his career before starting at left tackle his final two seasons.

“I think that whole thing is guys playing their natural positions,” said offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. “I think Cody’s more comfortable at guard and I think James is more comfortable and confident playing center.”

Helfrich has enjoyed watching Daniels ease into his new role.

“James kind of seems to me like he’s one of those guys that needs to do it before he talks about it,” Helfrich said. “Not that he’s going to puff his chest out about how great he is, but just having the confidence of communicating, he’s done a much better job at that. Playing center had a different set of ticks in his job description that require that more. I think [Daniels and Trubisky] have done a nice job so far of complementing one another in those ways.”

Daniels didn’t balk when he was approached about switching to center.

“If the coaches think it’s the best way to help the Bears win, I know they wouldn’t do that just because,” Daniels said. “I know that the coaches believe in me playing center and Cody playing guard, so I’m just ready to do it.”

Daniels earned NFL All-Rookie honors from ESPN last season at guard. But the Bears feel he can be even better at center and are confident that he will continue to make a smooth transition.

“He’s a very intelligent football player,” Trubisky said. “It comes easy to him and obviously he played it in college, so it’s been a natural switch and it’s been going really well. Cody’s been doing a great job at guard also.”

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