Opportunity knocks — at right guard — for Teven Jenkins
The 2021 second-round draft pick, who was moved from tackle to guard on Monday, practiced with the Bears’ first-team offense Tuesday and could get an audition Thursday night against the Seahawks. “We’re excited [to see] where he goes from this,” coach Matt Eberflus said.
When Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins returned to practice Aug. 6 after missing nine of the first 10 days of training camp, the 2021 second-round pick was at Halas Hall but not necessarily back.
He was polite and respectful and said all the right things in a news conference after practice, but his tone and curt responses suggested an unhappiness that indicated he might have one foot out the door mentally.
‘‘I’m here for the Chicago Bears right now,’’ he said.
When asked later about needing a new start after the regime that drafted him was ousted, even an oath of loyalty was tinged with dismay.
‘‘I’m a loyal type of guy,’’ Jenkins said. ‘‘The Chicago Bears drafted me, so I’m going to stay with the Chicago Bears until whenever it is.’’
It was a far cry from the player who was thrilled to be a Bear and full of confidence despite being taken later than expected — 39th overall — on draft night in 2021.
‘‘Now I have more people to prove wrong because I’m in the second round and coming to this beautiful city of Chicago,’’ Jenkins said at the time. ‘‘I’m just really excited and I’m just ready to get to work.’’
Nobody blamed Jenkins for being a bit disconsolate. Not only had he endured a difficult rookie season after having back surgery in training camp, but after then-general manager Ryan Pace was ousted after last season, the new regime under GM Ryan Poles didn’t seem to take a liking to him.
First they moved him from left tackle to right tackle. Then they demoted him to second team behind 2021 fifth-round pick Larry Borom. Then the Bears signed veteran tackle Riley Reiff, who looks like the starter at right tackle if fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones starts on the left side.
But just when it looked as though Jenkins was headed for the discard pile, the Bears threw him a lifeline — out of their own necessity. After veteran newcomer Michael Schofield struggled at right guard against the Chiefs in the preseason opener, allowing a sack on a visible whiff, Jenkins was moved to right guard in practice Monday.
By Tuesday, Jenkins was working exclusively with the first-team offense. It remains to be seen whether that’s a byproduct of Jenkins being a quick study or the Bears’ desperation, but it looks like a precursor to an actual audition with Justin Fields and the first-team offense in the preseason game against the Seahawks on Thursday in Seattle.
‘‘We’re working through that,’’ coach Matt Eberflus said after practice. ‘‘He’s been there [right guard] for a couple of days, and he’s doing a good job. And we’re excited [to see] where he goes from this point forward.’’
Guard isn’t a totally new position for the 6-6, 322-pound Jenkins. He played two games at right guard as a redshirt freshman at Oklahoma State in 2017 and was projected as a potential NFL guard during the draft process in 2021. With his athleticism and mobility, it’s worth a shot. And he said he would be up for it.
‘‘I’m willing to play wherever they want me,’’ Jenkins said with some conviction when asked in that news conference Aug. 6 about moving to guard. ‘‘I want to be here in Chicago, so I’m playing wherever they need me to play.’’
The Bears have been mixing and matching on their offensive line since the new staff started. Moving Jenkins to guard could solve two problems: filling a hole after letting James Daniels go in free agency and salvaging a former second-round draft pick who seemed to get lost in the transition from Pace to Poles.
‘‘He’s doing a good job,’’ offensive line coach Chris Morgan said. ‘‘When he gets upright, you can see him move. You can see the speed. He’s got great size, good strength. He’s a smart player. Those are all things that translate inside.’’