Teven Jenkins misses practice, but Bears don’t seem to have a spot for him anyway
Whether it’s his injury history or their scouting, every indication from the Bears is that they aren’t sold on a player that former GM Ryan Pace traded up to draft in the second round.
One of the biggest problems for general manager Ryan Poles in his first season with the Bears is that, in addition to sweeping out his predecessor’s mistakes, he didn’t inherit a wave of young players on the brink of stardom.
Ryan Pace’s draft errors haunt the Bears, and none more so than trading up to pick offensive lineman Teven Jenkins in the second round last year. As the rest of the NFL hesitated, presumably because of his back problems or that he’d predominantly played right tackle, Pace envisioned him as the Bears’ left tackle for years to come.
Poles and coach Matt Eberflus clearly aren’t looking at it through the same rose-colored telescope.
Jenkins missed practice Thursday, but the Bears don’t have a spot for him anyway. Eberflus didn’t hold a news conference but said on ESPN 1000 that Jenkins “woke up with something, nothing too alarming.”
Whatever the reason, the big-picture issue is that the team already seems to know he isn’t a fit.
Between scouting his college tape and the six games he played in after returning from back surgery last season, they might’ve seen enough.
The first sign of that was when Poles gave an intentionally vague response in March about it being “too early” to ascertain anything regarding whether Jenkins would play left or right tackle. A much louder alarm went off in the spring when fifth-round pick Braxton Jones, fresh out of Southern Utah, got left-tackle reps ahead of Jenkins.
Jones’ main competition for the starting job appears to be longtime left tackle Riley Reiff, who signed just before training camp opened. Larry Borom looks like the leader on the right side, though Reiff played the position last season for the Bengals.
The offensive line still could take a variety of forms, but Jenkins would need to climb dramatically to claim a starting spot. The Bears used him as an extra blocker Wednesday. Eberflus indicated they haven’t explored moving him to guard.
Teams typically keep eight offensive linemen, and there’s no certainty Jenkins would get one of the reserve spots over someone more experienced or more versatile.
When center Lucas Patrick exited practice with what a source said was a thumb injury (the severity hadn’t been determined yet), the Bears went with a line of Jones at left tackle, Cody Whitehair at left guard, sixth-round pick Doug Kramer at center, Sam Mustipher at right guard and Borom at right tackle.
That Jenkins, who went 39th overall, isn’t running away with a starting job — any starting job — is bad news for him and the team. And for both sides’ sake, if the Bears have made up their mind on him, it’s best to move on.
This season is about finding answers for 2023 and sifting out anyone who isn’t going to be part of the Bears’ next viable team. If they know Jenkins isn’t in their plans, the earlier they trade him, the more they could get in return.
And while Jenkins hasn’t given even the slightest indication that he wants out, he’ll be better off if he gets a restart before losing another year on the bench.
He said in May he was willing to play anywhere and seemed to grasp that his new bosses weren’t sold on him.
“It’s about earning trust and earning their belief that I deserve to be on this team still,” he said. “I’m working for that trust.”
In the Bears’ three drafts that preceded Poles, they had five picks in the first three rounds. The only sure thing in that group is cornerback Jaylon Johnson. Poles and Eberflus will scrutinize quarterback Justin Fields, tight end Cole Kmet and running back David Montgomery through the lens of how valuable they’ll be in the rebuild.
But every indication is that the Bears aren’t penciling in Jenkins.