For Teven Jenkins, 2021 is now an evaluation process

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On Monday morning, as the Chicago Bears returned to Halas Hall, head coach Matt Nagy announced the team would be activating the 21-day window for offensive tackle Teven Jenkins to return to practice. Jenkins, who’s been sidelined since training camp due to back surgery was the 39th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

After spending fours at Oklahoma State as a key piece of the Cowboys’ offensive line, the Bears traded up 13 spots to nab Jenkins and solidify the left side of the offensive line. As Jenkins gets ready to return to practice, the Bears will take a number of precautions, including easing Jenkins back into practice.

With eight games left in the 2021 season, the Bears’ best hope is Jenkins gets enough playing time to get acclimated to the NFL game, including understanding how to handle bigger, stronger, and faster defensive lineman.

“We’ll have to really get him in here and see where he’s at,” said Bears head coach Matt Nagy on Monday morning. “It’s been a while since Teven’s put the pads on so we’ll start there but that’ll be exciting for us to see.”

The goal for the Bears is simple: See what Jenkins can and can’t do. After spending his final college season as a right tackle, the Bears opted to move Jenkins to the left side of the offensive line, hoping his size and strength would make him an ideal pass blocker to protect rookie quarterback Justin Fields.

“Where he’s at, I know he’s really anxious and excited to get out there,” Nagy said. “As far as the sides, that stuff that we’ll work through with him but it’s always a positive when you have somebody especially when you draft a guy like we did early in the draft and for him to be able to do what he has to do now to get back to this point.”

After overhauling the offensive line during the offseason, Jenkins’ return to action comes at a time when the Bears need an additional boost. Currently, in the middle of a four-game losing streak, Fields has played well enough to keep the Bears in the last two games but the offensive line hasn’t been a major difference-maker. With Jenkins’ addition, maybe that can change.

Chicago Bears: Versatility on OL now a silver lining for the team

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The Chicago Bears offensive line has been ravaged throughout training camp. On paper, the expectation was that the starting five left to right would be: Teven Jenkins, James Daniels, Sam Mustipher, Cody Whitehair, and Germain Ifedi. Four weeks into training camp, the projected starting five has yet to practice together even once. Jenkins underwent back surgery that will sideline him indefinitely. Daniels dealt with a quad issue while Ifedi has been on the PUP list.

Injuries have forced the Bears to rely on a makeshift offensive line, providing second, third, and fourth-string players with the opportunity to receive additional reps throughout practice. Injuries to starters also provide the coaching staff with the chance to evaluate depth across the entire unit, a silver lining within itself.

“I think what you’ll see with most of our guys, is we got guys that can move across the board,” head coach Matt Nagy said via the Bears official YouTube page. “Left side, right side, they’ve kind of been forced to do that.”

Nagy is right. Injuries to key starters have forced the Bears’ offensive line to reshuffle multiple times, however, Chicago has also valued versatility in offensive lineman. Alex Bars and Larry Borom are two players that have been forced to learn multiple different positions throughout the course of training camp. Daniels and Whitehair are also players that have played multiple positions along the interior of the offensive line over the last two seasons.

As the Bears prepare to trim the roster down to 53 players, emphasis will be put on players who can play both left and right tackle but also switch to playing inside if needed. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo made the most of a makeshift offensive line last season with inconsistency at the quarterback position and injuries early in camp should see Castillo do much of the same as the regular season draws closer.

Chicago Bears: Team has botched the Teven Jenkins situation

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Throughout training camp, the injury bug has bit the Chicago Bears more than most expected. Chicago’s injury list didn’t get shorter on Wednesday due to the return of guard James Daniels and linebacker Roquan Smith,  it got longer when head coach Matt Nagy announced that rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins would be out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery.

Jenkins status has been a question mark for the Bears since the start of training camp roughly four weeks ago. Originally thought to be back tightness, when Jenkins began missing extended periods of time, it was clear that the second-round pick was dealing with more than just back tightness.

“You know we tried to hope to avoid the surgery with him, and we tried several treatments, but the goal is to get him back this season so that’s the most recent update with him,” head coach Matt Nagy said via the Bears official YouTube channel.

Essentially, the Bears hoped that Jenkins wouldn’t need surgery, which was clearly viewed as a last resort. When it became apparent that surgery was the only option, Nagy finally opted to disclose Jenkins true status to the media.

How Jenkins injury was handled shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The Bears have been known to dodge questions regarding injuries when it comes to key players. In 2019, tight end Trey Burton missed all of training camp after an offseason surgery. Burton would play in just five games in 2019 but have just 14 receptions before the Bears eventually shut him down.

No timetable has been set for Jenkins possible return, however, Nagy doesn’t sound too optimistic when discussing whether Jenkins could play in 2021. The worst-case scenario is that Jenkins misses his rookie season and watches from the sideline in order to have an opportunity to see the field in 2022, likely the earliest Jenkins NFL debut happens.

“You know we tried to hope to avoid the surgery with him, and we tried several treatments, but the goal is to get him back this season,” Nagy said.

The Bears messed up handling the Jenkins situation. by not opting for surgery when the problem really began to get serious. Now Chicago has created a hole that will be hard to fill due to uncertainty at who the starting left tackle will be, a role that many expected Jenkins to solidify after being drafted.

 

31 questions to Bears camp: Who’s the odd man out the Offensive Line?

When the Chicago Bears report to training camp in just under two weeks, the offensive line will garner plenty of attention. After overhauling the unit with the additions of rookies Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom while releasing veterans Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie this offseason, Chicago is looking to get younger on the OL heading into 2021.

Besides getting younger, adding offensive line depth was also a focus for the Bears this offseason, giving guys like Alex Bars, Elijah Wilkinson, Arlington Hambright, Lachavious Simmons, Adam Redmond, and Dieter Eiselen an opportunity to make the roster. The Bears will only carry a limited number of offensive lineman for the regular season, meaning some players will be cut.

Here’s what we know: Bars isn’t getting cut. After starting eight games in 2020, he’s Chicago’s most versatile offensive line, with the ability to play anywhere on the interior offensive line. The Bears value versatility on the interior as it gives the team more options should an injury occur.

Hambright and Simmons were seventh-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft and started one game as rookies. Chicago was forced to start both players due to a COVID-19 outbreak that occurred at Halas Hall. Both will have the opportunity to make the roster once again due to familiarity with Chicago’s offensive system.

Eiselen also started just one game at Center last season due to the COVID-19 outbreak at Halas Hall. The emergence of Sam Mustipher as starting center, along with the versatility that Bars provides means Eislen could be among the first name sent packing when the Bears trim the roster down to just 53 players in late August.

Wilkinson has played in 26 career games, starting at both right guard and right tackle. After starting seven games in 2020 and 12 games in 2019, there isn’t a serious case for Wilkinson to be cut, especially after he signed a one-year in free agency this offseason.

Redmond, another interior offensive lineman has started 18 games for the Dallas Cowboys. Signed by the Indianapolis Colts in 2016 as an undrafted free agent, the Bears will be Redmond’s fourth NFL team and at 28 years old, it’s clear that Redmond is merely a depth piece.

While we may be just over six weeks away from the Bears finalizing the 2021 roster, examining the offensive line, we know that Eiselen or Redmond could be the odd men out. Don’t necessarily rule out Simmons or Hambright, however, both did make the active roster last season, something that should occur again in 2021.

31 questions to Bears camp: Can Chicago rely on Teven Jenkins at LT?

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The Chicago Bears made yet another splash move during the 2021 NFL Draft, when the team moved up in round two to draft OT Teven Jenkins. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy spent much of his college career playing right tackle but has experience playing every spot on the offensive line, including a handful of starts at left tackle.

Just days after drafting Jenkins, Chicago made the decision to release veteran Charles Leno Jr., leading to questions about whether or not Teven Jenkins would be the primary starter at LT for Chicago. As Chicago enters training camp later this month, it’s fair to expect Jenkins to get first-team reps at LT.

Questions will persist about whether or not Jenkins can really transition to playing left tackle. Right tackles are typically responsible for run blocking, compared to left tackles who are responsible for pass protection. With defensive lineman and edge rushers being bigger, faster, and stronger at the NFL level, Jenkins will need to learn quickly in order to fit in.

Rookies will always experience a learning curve in the NFL. Year one in the NFL is all about fitting in with veteran teammates, getting acclimated to the speed of the NFL game, and learning how to be a pro athlete, a much different lifestyle compared to college football.

For Jenkins’ transition to be smooth, he’ll need to rely on veteran players in order to have the opportunity to make an impact in year one.

“For me, from listening to what they have to say, like from little things of take care of your body, getting to the weight room, get to the film room, they even help me on the field during certain sets, tells me if it wasn’t good enough, go back and do it again,” Jenkins said via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “And just little things like that from them is going to make a long payoff for me as a player and I really appreciate them for doing that.”

The skepticism regarding Jenkins fit at LT will continue to exist until the 39th overall pick shows that he can protect quarterback Justin Fields blindside for years to come.

Rookie Teven Jenkins relying on veterans for smooth transition to the NFL

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One of the major storylines during the 2021 NFL Draft in April was former Oklahoma State Cowboys offensive tackle Teven Jenkins slipping to the second round. Many considered Jenkins to be a first-round pick, however, when he kept slipping, the Chicago Bears traded up for Jenkins, securing the franchise’s future left tackle.

In just two months with the Bears, Jenkins has already made an impression, stating that he wants to continue to get better every day. Chicago’s offensive line is filled with veteran starters like James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Germain Ifedi, and Elijah Wilkinson, all of whom have continued to give Jenkins advice as the 39th overall pick continues his transition to the NFL.

“There’s been multiple on the whole line, like James Daniels, Cody (Whitehair), Germain (Ifedi), and Elijah Wilkinson,” Jenkins said via the Bears official YouTube page.

Younger players like Jenkins typically rely on veterans in the NFL to show them the way. In addition to on-field work, off-field work such as meetings, lifting sessions, and taking care of one’s body play into a long NFL career.

“For me, from listening to what they have to say, like from little things of take care of your body, getting to the weight room, get to the film room, they even help me on the field during certain sets, tells me if it wasn’t good enough, go back and do it again,” Jenkins said. “And just little things like that from them is going to make a long payoff for me as a player and I really appreciate them for doing that.”

Throughout his college career, Jenkins showcased nastiness and the willingness to play with a mean streak on every single rep. As he continues to prepare for his rookie season, playing on an offensive line with veterans will benefit Jenkins playing style, giving him the opportunity to continue his same playing style.

Chicago is excited for Jenkins’ upside, which is off the charts. By continuing to rely on veterans, Jenkins is hoping to realize his potential sooner rather than later and possibly become a household name on Chicago’s offensive line.

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace finally making offensive line a priority

Heading into the 2021 NFL offseason, the Chicago Bears needed to address the offensive line. After years of mediocrity featuring Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie, the Bears opted to move on from both veterans this offseason, drafting Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom in the 2021 NFL Draft.

With Chicago having started phase one of OTA’s, the Bears will also be bringing in veteran OT Morgan Moses for a visit, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. A third-round pick of the Washington Football Team in the 2014 NFL Draft, Moses has started 97 starts over the last seven seasons. Entering year eight, he hasn’t missed a game since his rookie year in 2014.

Chicago did retain OT Germain Ifedi this offseason, signing the former first-round pick to a one-year deal worth $5M. Should the Bears sign Moses, he’d be the immediate starter at right tackle, bumping Ifedi to a backup role.

Chicago’s heavy investments in the offensive line tell us a different story: GM Ryan Pace is finally upgrading the positional group he spent years neglecting. Prior to 2021, Pace selected just six offensive line, with only Cody Whitehair and James Daniels becoming starters.

The addition of Jenkins provides the Bears with a franchise-caliber left tackle, a position Chicago has struggled to find throughout the Pace era. Borom can play either right guard or right tackle, while third-year man Sam Mustipher will have an opportunity to compete for the starting Center job.

Struggles on offense for Chicago the last two seasons (2019 and 2020) are traced back to the quarterback. It’s hard to ignore issues on the offensive line that impacted Chicago’s running game, which averaged just 4.2 yards per carry last season with running back David Montgomery leading the way.

A key piece of OTA’s will be looking at how Chicago decides to experiment with offensive line combinations, which could include playing Whitehair at right guard, when traditionally, the sixth-year pro has split time at both center and left guard.

The Bears have versatility on the offensive line for the first time since the Pace era. Every storyline in Chicago this summer will revolve around Justin Fields and the quarterback position but what happens on the offensive line will be equally as important.

Five questions for the Chicago Bears rookie class this offseason

The Chicago Bears entered the 2021 NFL Draft with a number of questions. With no long-term solution at quarterback and no franchise-caliber left tackle, combined with limited resources, many saw it being difficult for the Bears to come away with any sort of significant haul.

Instead, general manager Ryan Pace managed to find the Bears’ future franchise quarterback in Justin Fields and left tackle in Teven Jenkins. Chicago added depth at key positions like wide receiver, offensive tackle, defensive line, and cornerback.

With still over a week until the Bears return to Halas Hall for OTA’s, there is plenty to talk about. The Bears rookie class has many excited because it could finally turn around the Bears franchise.

As we’ve mentioned previously here at Fireside Bears, Chicago’s 2021 rookie class will be dictated by how the Fields pick pans out. But there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Chicago’s rookie class. There are also a number of questions before the newest additions to the Bears franchise officially meet their new teammates next week.

1) How quickly will Fields develop chemistry with his playmakers?

Bears fans are already picturing Fields hitting wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney in stride. Just look at comments fans have made on social media. One aspect of Fields’ game in college was that he was always on the same page with his wide receivers.

The same will need to happen in the NFL but how quickly is the question. Robinson and Mooney proved last season that they could become one of the NFL’s best WR duos after combining for 163 receptions, 1881 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns.

When Fields gets his opportunity to take first-team reps, his connection with both wide receivers will be under the microscope. How quickly Fields proves he can connect with Robinson and Mooney could determine when the Bears decide to really begin the Fields era, officially giving the 11th overall pick the keys to the franchise.

2) What’s the plan for Jenkins’ development at LT?

General manager Ryan Pace sounded noncommital to where Jenkins would play during his post-draft press conference. Just 48 hours later, the Bears would release longtime starting LT Charles Leno Jr., who had been with the franchise since 2014.

The release of Leno Jr. now means that Jenkins will end up playing left tackle for the Bears, making him a cornerstone on the offensive line.

“We feel his best fit is either tackle spot for us. Really just describing the player for you guys, powerful tackle, he can bend, he can play with leverage, he consistently moves guys out in the run game,” Pace said via the Bears official Youtube channel.

Jenkins experience cannot be denied either. After having played both left and right tackle, along with left and right guard while at Oklahoma State, Jenkins has what it takes to be a day one starter, which means that OL coach Juan Castillo will like the nastiness that Jenkins brings on every play.

“We had first-round grades on him,” Pace said. “That’s why in the second round, especially that position, that player, we wanted to make sure we got him.”

Chicago knows that Jenkins will have an impact in both the running and passing game but the faster he develops, the quicker Chicago’s offense should see success as an entire unit.

3) How does CB Thomas Graham Jr. make the DB room expendable?

Uncertainty should be the word used to describe the Bears DB room heading into 2021. Besides safeties Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson, many of the Bears defensive backs are unproven. One name to keep an eye on as a potential cornerback and safety is sixth-round pick Thomas Graham Jr.

A smart and instinctive player with a nose for the football, Graham Jr. had eight interceptions and 32 pass breakups as a three-year starter for the Oregon Ducks. A competitive tackler as well, Graham Jr. gets after ball carriers, never losing sight, even showcasing his physicality.

“We’re excited about developing some of these guys right now,” said defensive coordinator Sean Desai on the Bears official Youtube page. “We like the volume and depth we got there. We got to play football.”

While his role has yet to be determined, the Bears should experiment with Graham Jr. at both CB and safety, before determining what his best fit his. There is also a possibility that he starts for the team in 2022, making 2021 a developmental year for a player with a tremendous amount of upside.

4) Can Khyiris Tonga be another hidden gem?

The Bears lost two key pieces on the defensive line this offseason: Brent Urban and Roy Robertson-Harris. Enter Khyiris Tonga, the fourth defensive lineman that Ryan Pace has drafted since 2015. Throughout his career at BYU, Tonga was a force as a run stuffer but also consistently took on double teams.

At 6-foot-4, 322 pounds, Tonga has proven he can get to the football with ease, using his size and power. His ability to take on double teams means that the Bears linebackers should flourish, which will also open up opportunities for Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks, and Bilal Nichols.

“Just being able to be quick, using my hands more, not trying to power everything with pads,” said Tonga. “Without pads, showing speed, elusiveness, being able to be quick on my feet. Any reps I can possibly take, it’s going to be positive for me. I’m just trying to take as much as I can.”

Tonga will start off as a rotational player in year one but there is no denying the possibility that he becomes a starter at some point in the future.

5) What will the Bears do with Khalil Herbert?

In the NFL, any spark on offense is a good spark, and sparking offenses is what Herbert did during his lone season at Virginia Tech. At a first glance, with what is expected to be a crowded backfield, there doesn’t appear to be a role for Herbert, unless he’s the primary return man on special teams, where he averaged 26.9 yards per return in 2020.

“They really want me to come in here and learn as much as I can,” Herbert said via the Bears official Youtube page. “Establish a role on special teams, they’re really big on that. Getting in my playbook, learning as much as I can to help contribute to the team in some way or form”.

Right now, Chicago doesn’t have a set role for Herbert but he has shown that he’s a hard runner who has a knack for explosive plays. Despite having minimal impact in the passing game, Herbert’s big-play ability is hard to ignore, especially in an offense that lacked big plays all throughout 2020.