Chicago Bears: A lot to consider with James Daniels extension talk

Chicago Bears (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Bears (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Chicago Bears Khalil Mack
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James Daniels of the Chicago Bears has pros and cons to his current game.

“Daniels is a very athletic center. In the run game, he’s extremely quick and effective on reach blocks and second-level blocks.” That quote was from NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s summary on Daniels when he was coming out of college.

It was no secret that he was an excellent outside zone blocker during his days at Iowa. His explosiveness and movement skills allowed him to thrive in a lateral run scheme that really played to his strengths. That hasn’t changed in the NFL.

When given the opportunity, Daniels has been effective in the outside zone. His reach blocking prowess and graceful ability to engage with linebackers has had no issue translating to the pro level.

The problem is that the Bears have a very diverse run scheme. They are primarily a zone blocking team but not exclusively an outside zone team like the 49ers, Vikings, Rams, etc. They mix up a good bit of inside zone and gap-power concepts, and Daniels’s effectiveness takes a notable drop-off in those schemes.

He doesn’t have the natural power to generate movement at the point of attack and control his defender from a stand still. There are too many times where he gets stood up and his man blows up the play. He needs momentum to be most effective and those other schemes limit him from what he does best.

Fortunately for Daniels, the Bears showed flashes of transitioning to a heavy outside zone approach in 2020. However, they would need to commit even more to that scheme to get the most out of him.