Bears need second-round picks to round into shape
The growth of the Bears’ second-round picks is the fastest way for the rebuilding team to become relevant. With three exceptions, they’re the closest the Bears come to having a pedigree.
As long as linebacker Roquan Smith refuses to practice while angling for a contract extension, the Bears have only three first-round draft picks on their roster that actually participate on the field.
One is quarterback Justin Fields. The other two, defensive end Robert Quinn and right tackle Riley Reiff, were drafted during the first term of the Obama administration.
The growth of the team’s second-round picks, then, is the fastest way for the rebuilding Bears to become relevant. With three exceptions, they’re the closest the Bears come to having a pedigree.
Monday, the Bears’ three most recent second-round picks — cornerback Kyler Gordon, safety Jaquan Brisker and offensive lineman Teven Jenkins — moved in different directions. Gordon returned to practice Monday after sitting out 10 days with an injury. The team’s top pick this year — they didn’t have a first-rounder after sending it to the Giants for Fields last year — said he didn’t feel pressure to rush back.
“Being the top draft pick doesn’t really matter to me,” he said. “There’s stuff that I want to do for myself, too, being able to be out there, add value to the team and being with my teammates.”
Chief among those teammates: Brisker. The rookie was a standout in the Bears’ preseason opener — but then sat out Monday’s practice.
“I knew he was going to do his thing [Saturday] and it was just exciting to see him go out there and do all that — be physical and tough, get his hands on the ball,” Gordon said. “It was cool. I was happy for him. He knows that I know he’s going to do more. I’m excited for him and what he’s going to do and what it adds to this team.”
Gordon hadn’t been on the field as much as he or the Bears would have liked. He sat out parts of the offseason program with injuries. When he has been healthy, he has looked the part of the No. 39 overall pick — he’ll start either at outside cornerback or in the slot.
Gordon wasn’t concerned about the pattern of his injury absences — “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” he said — and vowed to play in the preseason game Thursday in Seattle. He grew up 30 minutes north of the city and went to Washington.
The Bears’ No. 39 pick a year earlier, -Jenkins, will play, too — just maybe at a new position.
For the first time in his Bears career, -Jenkins played somewhere other than tackle during Monday’s practice. He took snaps as the second-team right guard.
One on hand, right guard is the position where the Bears are weakest on the starting offensive line, with veteran Michael Schofield showing inconsistencies thus far and Sam Mustipher forced to move to center because of Lucas Patrick’s injury. Jenkins has a much better chance of beating out either player than he did Reiff, who has settled in at right tackle.
Second-year player Larry Borom seems set as the team’s swing tackle. Jenkins can’t make the team as another backup tackle without positional versatility.
Jenkins played 36 snaps in the preseason opener, all at right tackle. Only two Bears were in for more plays. Some around the league have long believed Jenkins’ best position could be guard. Then-general manager Ryan Pace put him at left tackle last year before back surgery sidelined him for all but six games.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said Jenkins can handle the switch.
“In our system . . . guards get stressed mentally more than tackles do,” he said. “So, he’s someone who can . . . that’s the strength of his game. And so we want to try that and see what that looks like within what we’re trying to get done.”