Chicago Bears offensive tackle Teven Jenkins has experienced one of the strangest offseasons in recent memory. Once believed to be on the trading block after missing seven consecutive practices for undisclosed reasons (he may still be available at the right price), Jenkins returned to Bears practice earlier this week in a new-look role at right guard. Jenkins practiced with the second-team offense on Monday.
In a shocking twist, he was quickly promoted to the first team on Tuesday. With Larry Borom, Riley Reiff, and Braxton Jones locked in as Chicago’s top-three offensive tackles, moving Jenkins to guard as a last-ditch attempt to salvage his Bears tenure makes sense. A second chance at a new position makes Jenkins one of the most intriguing Bears players to watch during Thursday’s preseason showdown with the Seattle Seahawks.
Under normal circumstances, a positional switch this close to the regular season wouldn’t afford Jenkins much opportunity to claim the starting job. The circumstances are anything but normal across Chicago’s undetermined offensive line, however. Assuming Jenkins’ move to right guard sticks, he now finds himself in a skirmish against veteran Michael Schofield, who signed a one-year contract with the Bears less than a month ago. Schofield holds the advantage of actually having played the guard position throughout his nine-year career, but he’s new to the Bears and continues to learn their offensive scheme. That’s at least one advantage Jenkins holds, having spent time in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s system all summer long while Schofield continues to learn on the fly.
Furthermore, Schofield was credited with giving up a sack on franchise quarterback Justin Fields in the Bears’ Week 1 preseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Fields was sacked twice and hurried on multiple occasions throughout just 18 offensive snaps, and Schofield was partially to blame for the starting offensive line’s blunders. Schofield also failed to generate the desired movement in the run game. Schofield’s below-average showing could have contributed to the staff’s willingness to move Jenkins guard just two days after that contest against the Chiefs. Don’t believe in coincidences.
It’s worth monitoring who earns the start at right guard with the Bears’ first-team offense against the Seahawks on Thursday. If it’s Schofield, it indicates the veteran journeyman remains comfortably ahead of Jenkins in their standoff. If it’s Jenkins however, the No. 38 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft increases his likelihood of earning an unsuspecting start against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1.
Above all, Jenkins must showcase he’s acclimating nicely to his new position with a good performance against the Seahawks’ underrated defensive line. All reports out of Bears practice this week indicate Jenkins is making a smooth transition. It’s a welcomed development.
“We kicked him inside and he’s been there for a couple days and he’s doing a good job,” Head Coach Matt Eberflus said. “We’re excited where he goes from this forward.”
It’s worth noting the position isn’t totally foreign to Jenkins, who started a handful of games at right guard for Oklahoma State during the 2017 season. That was several years ago, and Jenkins eventually thrived at both left and right tackle for the Cowboys. Jenkins’ lack of overall range had some teams viewing him as a guard throughout the pre-draft process. A transition inside was always within the realm of possibility.
Thursday’s exhibition showdown against the Seahawks may present a fate-deciding moment for Jenkins. If the Topeka, Kansas native can string together a standout performance, it may represent the push required to defeat Schofield and lock down the starting job at right guard. It would qualify as an unbelievable turn of events given the rollercoaster of an offseason Jenkins has experienced.