Bears Training Camp Roundup II: O-Line Shuffle, Kmet, Velus, Wannie Returns, How to Do Halas Hall, More

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Bears Training Camp Roundup II: O-Line Shuffle, Kmet, Velus, Wannie Returns, How to Do Halas Hall, More

Chicago Bears

No matter what my expectations are for the Bears, that first day of open training camp practices is among my favorite dates on the sports calendar. Getting to see practice is cool. But doing so while also catching up with so many of you who I interact with here and elsewhere online is my favorite part. It is what makes this community we’ve built special. And, frankly, it is one of those things that makes Bears fandom unique.

I’m looking forward to seeing many more of you on Saturday. But first, let’s discuss today’s happenings.

Teven Jenkins Misses Practice

We’re only two says into practice, but I’m not feeling great vibes when it comes to Teven Jenkins’ arrow. The second-year player who was a second-round pick last year appears to be sliding down the depth chart. Jenkins, who ended last season in prime position to be the Bears’ left tackle of the future, has slid down the OL spectrum from left tackle, down to right tackle during OTAs, and second-string right tackle during minicamp. And on Thursday, Jenkins didn’t suit up for practice.

Head Coach Matt Eberflus didn’t meet with the media after Thursday’s session, so there is no clarity regarding the situation. Even if there was one, this isn’t the way Jenkins (or anyone associated with the Bears) was hoping he would start training camp. To be clear, I’m not ready to call Jenkins a bust. Or a waste of a second-round pick. But this is an inauspicious start to his first year under a new regime. Perhaps Jenkins can move the meter when pads come on and he can use his size and strength to re-establish himself. I’ll be curious to watch his progress in future practices (when he gets onto the field).

Velus Jones Jr. Has the Juice

There is a shiftiness in Velus Jones Jr.’s game that I love. Sure, it’s early But the route running has a crispness to it that I like seeing. Little to no wasted movement on Jones’ part.

Yes, every receiver looks great in shorts this time of year. So I don’t want to get too out of line. But Jones has eye-catching speed and a noticeable burst when he has the ball in his hands. Watch him as he gets off the line of scrimmage, too. If WRs Coach Tyke Tolbert can harness Jones’ abilities, he could be the WR2 that Bears fans were hoping their team would land in the draft. I definitely found myself more impressed with his route-running than I thought I would be. His out-leveraging fellow rookie Kyler Gordon on a deep ball was top-notch.

And if Jones proves to be a quality complement for Mooney, then we’ll have good reason to look forward to watching the Bears offense when it has the ball.

Camp Upgrades For Fans

Among the notable Halas Hall training camp upgrades is a trio of food trucks that greet you as you walk to the practice fields:

One makes tacos, the other pizza, and a third has Kona Ice. I plan on making it out to training camp a handful of more times, so I’ll hopefully be able to give some scouting reports to see if anything is worth chowing down on before or after practice. In any case, that they are there in the first place is a step up. Well done.

And, yes, there *IS* a beverage stand. It sells beer (Miller Lite, Blue Moon Light Sky, Leinenkugel’s, and Fizzy Pineapple Mango were all $8.25) if you feel the need to have an adult beverage while consuming practice football. Make note that the Bears concession stands are cash-free. Always good to be aware.

I strongly recommend visiting the Walter Payton Center. You’ll need to sign a waiver first, but that process is easier this year than it was in 2021. When you arrive at Halas Hall, you’ll scan a bar code with your phone and fill out a digital form on Adobe. It is super easy, worth your time, and – from my experience – Bears employees will gladly show you and help you through that process. Once you get into the Payton center, go walk around, touch the grass, and breathe in the Bears football aromas. There is also an oversized Walter Payton bobblehead and a trophy case with Payton heirlooms and memorabilia. If you time it right, you can check it out before you reach the practice fields.

Extra Points

  • It was neat to see Chairman George McCaskey chopping it up with the fans just outside the Walter Payton Center. I may not agree with his decisions, but I can respect his willingness to talk shop with fans. There aren’t enough owners with the guts to do that, let alone do so after firing an unpopular coach and general manager and ahead of a time when the team could be moving out of city limits.
  • I see your $20 Mitchell Trubisky jerseys being sold at Bears camp and raise you a half-off orange stitched Khalil Mack jersey top. For $75, that feels like such a steal. Laugh about it now, but you’ll thank yourself in 18 years when your child is rocking a throwback Mack jersey at Lolla. You’ll be the cool dad was fashionably ahead of the curve. They might get you a nice spot with a balcony view at the old folks home.
  • Speaking of jerseys: The Bears’ practice jerseys having names on the back is a new touch. I still like having the cardboard paper with names and numbers just in case I can’t tell the names from my vantage point.
  • The return of fan interaction was an absolute highlight for me. Fans welcoming new players and coaches. Players signing autographs. Fans interacting with each other. It was a beautiful thing. And it is something I won’t ever take for granted after the last two years:
  • My favorite interaction from the sidelines boils down to this exchange between Head Coach Matt Eberflus and a fan:

Fan: They’re looking great out there, coach.
Eberflus: We’ve still got a lotta work to do.

  • You don’t need to blow smoke when talking to most Bears fans. Be real when it comes to your assessments – good or bad – and fans will take it in stride. Honesty remains the best policy.
  • It was very cool to meet Jeff and Sam from WCG at training camp. And there were others, too. It was great seeing so many of you in person after exchanging messages online. Sometimes, the internet can be a rad place:
  • Lamar Jackson (no, not that one!) was everywhere at practice on Thursday. He even came away with an impressive interception, which I mistakenly labeled as a pick-six. Firstly, my apologies for the mistake. It’s training camp for me, too. But also? When the defense treats every turnover and scoop of a ball on the ground like a live turnover and scoring opportunity, you can understand why I got ahead of myself. For whatever it’s worth, it’s a pick-six in my book. Not that anyone is keeping score during training camp. Right?
  • I love the idea of a specialists competition in camp. Bonus points for not revolving around the kickers. We saw Velus Jones Jr., Trestan EBner, Khalil Herbert, and Byron Pringle among players returning kicks. Eddie Jackson was dabbling in that on Wednesday. All hands on deck at Halas Hall this summer.
  • Hey now, Cole Kmet was out there ballin’ on Thursday:
  • It feels hyperbolic to declare this potentially being a “big year” for Kmet. But it can’t be hyperbolic if it is true, can it? Kmet is a third-year player whose second season in Chicago was statistically better than his rookie campaign. Even still … there was considerable disappointment after watching Kmet held out of the end zone. That frame and skill set should make Kmet a lock for a handful of red zone touchdowns per year. Coaching, scheming, and usage played a role in Kmet not reaching the type of heights we thought he could in his first two seasons. But a new coaching staff and scheme (along with his own offseason work with Justin Fields and Darnell Mooney) should put Kmet in a place to prosper in 2022.
  • Seeing Dave Wannstedt at Halas Hall gave me mixed feelings. Wannstedt is most known *NOW* for his work on the media side of things. If you’ve heard Wannstedt on radio or seen him on television, you know him (that distinguishable mustache and that undeniably thick Pennsylvania accent) as a good storyteller. Wannstedt has been around the block, knows some guys, and done some things. But his time as a Bears head coach was underwhelming. He was 40-56 in six years with the Bears. There were back-to-back winning seasons in 1994-95 and a playoff appearance, but the rest was a mess that wasn’t long for Chicago. And it’s left me with a bit of a sour taste over the years. I’m still struggling to separate Wannstedt (the media personality and Wannstedt (the failed coach). Hence, the awkward feeling I had when I saw him hanging with Ryan Poles on the sidelines.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.