The Chicago Bears may have defeated Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday, but they also suffered a critical loss. Having already lost Tarik Cohen to a season-ending injury, Chicago’s offense just took another significant hit. With James Daniels sustaining a torn pec, the Bears must quickly reshuffle their offensive line as they try to move to 5-1 next week.
The Bears already lost Tarik Cohen for the year
It did not take long for the Bears to suffer their first major injury blow of the 2020 NFL season. Fourth-year running back Tarik Cohen suffered a torn ACL in Chicago’s comeback victory against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3.
The versatile offensive weapon signed a $17 million contract extension just a week before his season ended. Prior to tearing his ACL, Cohen had totaled 74 rushing yards on 14 carries to go along with six catches for 41 yards.
Of course, he earned that lucrative deal by providing the Bears with big-time playmaking ability on both offense and special teams. The 2017 fourth-round pick earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in his second year in the league thanks to his elite return skills.
However, the 25-year-old will have to wait till next season to try and add a second Pro Bowl berth to his resume. And just 10 days after losing Cohen to a season-ending injury, the Bears suffered another brutal blow to their offense.
Chicago suffers another season-ending injury blow
Like Tarik Cohen, James Daniels has quickly become an integral part of Chicago’s offense. The 6-foot-3, 305-pounder played his college ball at Iowa—a program renowned for churning out NFL offensive linemen.
Capable of playing both guard and center, Daniels’ versatility helped him become a highly-coveted prospect. Chicago selected the versatile lineman with the 39th overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft. He went on to start 10 games as a rookie before playing every single offensive snap last season.
Unfortunately for Daniels, he won’t be able to make that claim this year. In fact, the 23-year-old has already played his final snap of the season. On Friday, Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported via Twitter that an MRI confirmed Daniels suffered a torn pec in Thursday night’s win against the Buccaneers.
The injury ends his season after just five games. And now, the Bears have to quickly find a permanent solution at left guard if they want to sustain their early-season success.
Can the Bears overcome the loss of James Daniels?
Despite their injury issues, the Bears have surprisingly gone 4-1 to start the season. Still, with Tarik Cohen and James Daniels out for the year, that puts more pressure on Nick Foles and the rest of the offense to step up.
First, Matt Nagy must decide if Alex Bars can capably fill Daniels’ left guard spot. The 6-foot-5, 314-pound Notre Dame product joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent last season. He spent some time on the practice squad before getting promoted to the active roster in October.
Bars entered last night’s contest after Daniels went down and surrendered an easy sack to Vita Vea, who ironically suffered a season-ending injury of his own on Thursday.
Should the Bears choose to move in another direction, one free-agent possibility makes a ton of sense.
While Larry Warford boasts the most accomplished resume of any free-agent guard, he opted-out of playing this season. On the other hand, Ronald Leary could be a perfect plug-and-play replacement for Daniels.
The 31-year-old started 76 games for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos. While he could rejoin forces with Jerry Jones’ team, the Bears could also offer him a starting job with Daniels sidelined for the season. Money shouldn’t be an issue either, as the Bears have about $9.7 million in cap space.
Ultimately, Chicago must address its gaping hole at left guard one way or another. But if the offensive line takes a sizable step back without James Daniels, don’t be surprised if the Bears start to slip in the NFC North standings.