Do you remember when Jaylon Johnson spent time running with the second-team defense during OTAs in May?
Head Coach Matt Eberflus told reporters not to read into Johnson’s time with the second-string secondary; and perhaps with good reason. Remember, Johnson was notably absent during earlier OTAs and it is conceivable that his time with the second unit was simply about getting him familiar with the defense without thrusting him into action against the 1’s.
Even still … the assignment felt like an opportune time for Eberflus to send a message to an established starting cornerback. And in the end, I feel as if the message came across loud and clear. Johnson, himself, said it bugged him a bit and it seems to have put some things in perspective.
(For what it’s worth, Johnson found himself running with the big dogs and the first-team defense at the Bears’ most recent OTAs. You know, the ones not canceled due to non-contact violations. And ultimately, all is well that ends well. There is no reason to believe Johnson will be anywhere but with the the first team when training camp opens.)
I offer all of this as background, because Teven Jenkins – another returning starter from last year’s Bears team – finds himself in a similar situation (spending time as the second-team offensive line’s right tackle). In a lot of ways, it’s the exact same situation, right down to the “not making a big deal out of it.”
The reasoning, via NBC Sports Chicago’s Josh Shrock:
“So, we had six practices, and then we got six to seven to go at that point when we made the switch, and we wanted to change combinations,” Eberflus said of putting Braxton Jones with the first unit, which put Jenkins with the second team. “That’s not the only thing we’ve changed from tackle to tackle. We’ve moved some receivers around. Some guys are playing X. Some guys are playing Z.
“We’re just trying to find the best combinations of people, especially when you’re looking at the offensive line. Who’s the best five guys out there so we can succeed, and it creates competition when you do that, you know when you’re moving guys around. Who can function at different spots, and who can really execute?”
As we discussed in yesterday’s roundup, Jenkins’ move was part of a shakeup throughout the offensive line. So it’s not like it was decided in isolation. And everything we said about Jaylon Johnson still applies … but it still has my attention.
The move represents the latest such shift down the ladder for Jenkins. At this time last year, signs were pointing to Jenkins being the left tackle protecting Justin Fields’ blindside. But since ending the 2021 season projecting to be the Bears’ long-term option at left tackle, we’ve seen Jenkins flip positions with Larry Borom, installed (presumably) as the starting right tackle after radically re-shaping his body, and now a little nudge over to the second unit’s RT. This isn’t inconsequential, as we’ve now seen not one, but two fifth-round picks get time at a position Jenkins was once seen as the future starter at moving forward.
Maybe it is just part of the evolution and evaluation process. Perhaps it is only to get a look at different players in a variety of roles. However, I feel as if this regime was fully sold on Jenkins at one spot, they’d leave him there to develop. For all we know, this new front office and coaching staff feel that way behind the scenes. But actions speak louder than words in football circles. And I think we need to be aware of the Bears’ actions.
In the end, I’m not overly concerned. In fact, I’m nowhere near approaching the ledge. But I couldn’t see the way things were trending and not come away unbothered. Even if that feeling is temporary.