The Bears reworked their offensive line this year in hopes they could better protect Justin Fields so he’d have more opportunities to make game-changing plays. Part of the plan included moving Cody Whitehair from left guard to center. It’s a bit of a gamble considering Whitehair hasn’t played midfield since 2020, but in a one-on-one interview with NBC Sports Chicago, Whitehair said he’s more comfortable at center this year than he is at left guard. last year.
Part of the reason Whitehair is more comfortable this year is simply because he’s the second year in Luke Getsy’s system, so he’s more familiar with all the calls. Another reason is because he had a heads up that this move was coming.
“They let me know what the deal was a few weeks before we reported,” Whitehair told NBC Sports Chicago. “I was able to do a few snaps on my own just to get more comfortable with it.
“I really appreciate you letting me know ahead of time… The general mental part, the muscle memory part, having a couple extra weeks, it just helped me.”
Fans who remember Whitehair’s stint at center in the early stages of his career will remember his unorthodox shotgun jab. Instead of catching the ball in the more traditional wayー catching the middle of the ballー Whitehair holds the back of the ball, puts the front of the ball on the ground, and then throws it back to the quarterback. That snap is back.
“It came up when I had a little bit of a problem there as far as shooting the ball high,” Whitehair said. “Harry Hiestand, when he was our line coach, introduced me to this form of snapping and it really worked for me. I had a lot more success with that, so it just stuck.”
Hiestand joined the Bears in 2018, the same year he was recognized with Pro Bowl honors at center.
Whitehair feels he has more control of the ball with the snap than Hiestand taught him, especially on certain blocks when he wants to “really go in” quickly. In the past, Whitehair had a penchant for throwing the ball too high because he was speeding up the process. It’s a small sample sizeー and with no pads on there’s no reason to act fastー but in two OTA days that were open to the media, Whitehair didn’t fire a ball over Fields’ head with the shotgun. Everything seemed clean.
However, Whitehair comfort is only part of the equation. Fields has to feel good receiving the ball with Whitehair’s cross.
“We’ve had a dialogue with it and he seems to be enjoying it at the moment,” Whitehair said.
Whitehair believes Fields’ Ohio State center Josh Myers used the same snap, and a brief audit of the tape shows he went up the ball the same way in certain scenarios, so it’s not entirely new to Fields. Whitehair believes other factors also make his play easier for quarterbacks.
“It’s a little bit slower snap, so as a quarterback, they like that. It allows them to grab the laces and throw a little bit faster.”
The Bears won’t put on the pads until training camp in late July or early August, so it will be some time before we really see how the new offensive line performs. From what we can see, Whitehair and Fields seem to be settling in nicely together.
The Bears return to Halas Hall for their final four days of OTA on Monday. Then the mandatory minicamp begins on June 13.
Click here to follow the Under Center podcast.