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James Daniels thriving at left guard


James Daniels has settled in at left guard.

After his second season in the league was marked with an offseason switch to center and midseason switch back, Daniels is comfortable with where he is. He even joked Friday that his favorite part of being back at guard is avoiding media questions about playing center.

Through the first three games of the season, Daniels has blossomed thanks to a few offseason changes. He has taken to the guidance of new offensive line coach Juan Castillo.

"Juan has been really good for us," said Daniels. "The biggest thing that I would say Juan teaches us is just work super hard, and if you're having trouble with a technique or things like that, you try to do it over and over again. I think Juan has been really good for myself and the offensive line."

Earlier this week, Castillo praised Daniels' competitive edge and stressed that the 23-year-old guard's technique is much improved.

"I know that from working in training camp with James," said Castillo, "the things that we talked about was in the run game, we're trying to get off our toes. When you're on your toes, you over-extend, it affects your balance. And we talked about the same thing in pass protection. We're going to set square, work on our timing with our hands, try to stay off our toes and play square."

Daniels is also benefitting from a change in physique. After playing his first two seasons at around 300 pounds, Daniels now weighs in at 315. The extra heft has allowed him to become a more imposing presence in the middle.

"Juan says all the time," said Daniels, "my body type, because I'm not young, but I'm [also] not like 28, 29, and so my body has the ability, just because of my age, to put on pounds. I feel like the [added] weight has helped me become better. Of course, I've had another year in the weight room, so I'm stronger. But adding on weight, I feel like it has helped me, and I don't feel sluggish."

Daniels also credits the stability thus far in the lineup. After starting his career as a backup before last season's position moves, this offseason gave Daniels the chance to build his rapport with the players on either side of him: center Cody Whitehair and left tackle Charles Leno Jr.

"This was my first camp running with the first-team offense at guard," said Daniels, "so it was nice during camp to be able to get combos with Cody, combos with Leno throughout the entire camp."

Daniels will have his biggest test yet on Sunday when he faces off against Colts Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

"He's a really good player," said Daniels, "and the way he's built, he's like 6-7 or 6-8, extremely long arms, and of course, people with that type of build usually play D-end. They don't play D-tackle. Having that type of body type is something. I haven't really blocked anybody with that body type all year. He's very fast. He's very athletic. He knows how to use his length, so it's going to be a really good matchup."