The biggest Bears substitution in their Week 6 loss to the Vikings was undoubtedly undrafted free agent rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent coming in for Justin Fields after Fields injured his hand in the third quarter. How much time Fields ultimately misses due to that injury will be the biggest storyline to monitor moving forward, without a doubt.
But the Bears made another move– of their own volition– that could also have a major impact on the offense. The team benched center Cody Whitehair in the second half and inserted Lucas Patrick to take his place in the middle of the offensive line.
“With Justin going out and Tyson in there, we thought it was better for our team to have the guy with more experience in there playing center,” said head coach Matt Eberflus. “That’s the position that we have where Lucas has played a long time and has a lot of experience in there. We thought that would settle Bagent down a little bit.”
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Of course, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Whitehair had three poor snaps in a row out of the shotgun, which played a big role in a doomed drive, prior to his benching. Eberflus denied those bad snaps played a part in the decision to switch to Patrick, however.
“It was more about settling down and putting a guy (in) who has more experience at center,” Eberflus said. “We feel good about both guys.”
For what it’s worth, Whitehair has played at center in 62 games over his career. Patrick has only appeared in 24 games at the position. Also, Bagent said he felt comfortable working with both centers and debunked any thinking that he might have banked more reps with Patrick since they’re each the backups at their respective positions.
“More times than not I’m taking scout team reps with neither of those guys,” Bagent said. “But I make sure– you know each center snaps it a little different, especially under center. In the gun it’s pretty similar. I make sure I mix it up and get under snaps throughout the week and then pregame with all those guys.”
Some may think a benching like this would signal the end of Whitehair’s tenure with the team, but Whitehair could be starting again as soon as next week. Starting right guard Nate Davis also left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, and if he’s not healthy enough to play next week the Bears will have to find his replacement. Ja’Tyre Carter has worked as the primary backup right guard this season, mainly because they needed Whitehair to play left guard and Patrick to play center when typical left guard Teven Jenkins was on IR. But with Jenkins back, the Bears might determine their best five includes Whitehair in the middle and Patrick at right guard, instead of Patrick at center and Carter at right guard. Or maybe they determine Whitehair is best suited to switch to the right side with Davis on the mend.
Whatever the case, benching Whitehair was a short-term solution that helped the offense get back on track in Week 6. But it’s too early to say Whitehair has played his last down as a Bear.