Bears

How Kyle Long's injury started the process of switching James Daniels and Cody Whitehair

How Kyle Long's injury started the process of switching James Daniels and Cody Whitehair

How important was Kyle Long to the Bears' offense? The right guard went on IR four weeks ago, and the Bears are still dealing with the issues that his absence creates at other positions. 

Not only did Long's injury mean that the Bears were going to have to lean on Rashaad Coward before they would have liked, but it also largely drove the decision to move James Daniels and Cody Whitehair back to the positions they played last season – Whitehair at center, and Daniels at left guard. 

"You have Kyle over there, veteran, steadying guy next to James, between him and Bobby," Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. "Now you have a guy that was a defensive lineman playing that spot, and with Cody in there, it's a steadying factor." 

Without Long, Whitehair's now the most senior member on the Bears' interior line. Drafted in 2016, he's got two years on both Daniels and Rashaad Coward, the latter being moved onto the offensive line when Nagy took over in 2018. Given how the offense has looked through 10 weeks, there wasn't a lot of harm in giving the switch a shot. 

"I think you have a balance when you look at it," Nagy added. "Before, you have experience wise, you’re dealing with Leno on the left, right? Cody and James and Rashaad. That was one of the things that we looked at with that switch. And then I think you kind of balance it out a little bit."

Daniels' versatility across multiple positions is a big part of the reason why the Bears took him 39th overall in 2018. It's also a big part of the reason why they're confident that moving back to guard halfway through the year won't throw him for a loop. He did, after all, start 10 games (nine on the left, once on the right) there as a rookie. He ended his rookie season with a Top-40 grade from to Pro Football Focus, and was one of only 35 guards to not allow a sack. 

"I just like him period," Hiestand said. "I just like him as a football player and as a person. He gives us everything he has every day. He's got a lot of ability and over time as he gets stronger and becomes more confident playing in this league and grows and matures, he's gonna be fun to watch."

The Bears were as unified as they were non-committal when asked if the switch was permanent. They were proud that Daniels "handled [the news] great," and praised his team-first approach, a response that isn't automatic with 23-year-old 2nd round picks that get replaced. And for the conspiracy theorists out there, there was no input from the quarterback room. "We've got enough on our plate," QB coach Dave Ragone quipped. 

It's not going to be an overnight fix, which was pretty clear after the game against Detroit featured Whitehair struggling out of the shotgun, two penalties from Daniels, and five sacks allowed. Still, the Bears will have to go 6-1 or 7-0 to have any realistic chance at a playoff berth, and moving Whitehair back gives them a better shot at doing that. It just may mean a few more hiccups, but that's nothing new this year. 

"Going through a couple of snap issues here or there, there were a few of those yesterday," Nagy said. "We’ve been through that before and Cody’s done a great job of pulling through that. We just know that making that switch, for a lot of different reasons is more beneficial." 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Bears LB coach says Leonard Floyd is doing everything team has asked of him

Bears LB coach says Leonard Floyd is doing everything team has asked of him

Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd's success will be defined by how many sacks he records each year. Maybe it's unfair to judge Floyd based on one statistic, but considering Chicago's draft investment in him (ninth overall pick in 2016), sacks -- and a lot of them -- were the expectation.

Floyd's most productive season as a pass rusher came in his rookie year when he totaled 7.5 sacks. He's managed just 8.5, total, over the last two years (26 total games). It's been more of the same from him in 2019, as he has just three sacks entering Week 15's game against the Packers.

The Bears picked up Floyd's fifth-year option last offseason, which means his cap number will jump from just over $5 million this season to more than $13 million in 2020. It's a hefty price to pay for a player who doesn't get to the quarterback, but linebackers coach Ted Monachino said this week that no player on Chicago's roster can do what Floyd does for the defense.

“There’s only one guy in our building that can do the job that Leonard is asked to do, and that’s Leonard Floyd,” Monachino said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s playing at as high a level as I’ve ever had a ‘Sam’ [linebacker] play. I couldn’t ask any more of him.

“He wears a lot of hats throughout the game. He’s in coverage in base. He’s in coverage in sub. He’s a rusher in base. He’s a rusher in sub. He does it all for us. I do wish for him, and I think it would help all of us if he got some sacks, and we didn’t have to answer the same question once a month. But I do believe he’s playing at as high a level as any ‘Sam’ in our league.”

Monachino's assessment of Floyd's game is certainly fair, but it still doesn't change the fact that he hasn't become the kind of player the Bears were envisioning back in 2016. He was supposed to be John Fox and Vic Fangio's 'Von Miller.'

Instead, Floyd's Pro Football Focus pass-rushing grade ranks 89th among edge defenders in 2019. 

The Bears have the option of rescinding Floyd's fifth-year option this offseason, and with Chicago's tight salary-cap situation, it's a choice they may be forced to make. 

But Floyd has a chance to make a strong final impression on GM Ryan Pace over the final three games of this season, and with the Packers up next, there's a chance he'll do just that. Of his 18 career sacks, 7.5 have come against Green Bay.

"I feel great in the position I’m in," Floyd said this week. "I’m playing for a great organization. I got a lot more left in me.”

The Bears need Floyd to be their 'Von Miller' on Sunday, and for the rest of the season, to turn their near-impossible quest for the playoffs into reality.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Bears to activate Akeim Hicks off IR on Saturday

Bears to activate Akeim Hicks off IR on Saturday

The return of Akiem Hicks is upon us.

In a widely expected the move, the Bears activated Hicks off injured reserve on Saturday. Hicks is be eligible to play Sunday against the Packers.

Hicks suffered a dislocated elbow in Week 5 against the Raiders. He hit IR on Oct. 15, where players are required to spend a minimum of eight weeks before returning, per NFL rules.

The Bears defense hasn't been the same with Hicks out, and during his absence, linebackers Danny Trevathan (elbow) and Roquan Smith (torn pec) have both gone down with injuries.

Simply put, Hicks is a much-welcomed return for the Bears.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.