What’s Going on With the Bears and Teven Jenkins?

The 2022 calendar year isn’t shaping out the way we were hoping for Teven Jenkins taking the next step in his development.

Not yet at least.

When looking ahead to the future in the early stages of 2022, it was easy to envision Jenkins as the team’s left tackle of the future. Even though he wasn’t brought in by GM Ryan Poles and his new regime, it didn’t take much of a leap to get to a place where Jenkins’ size, potential, and prospect pedigree was going to be Justin Fields’ blindside blocker for years to come. But things have been unraveling as the year has gone on. And it hasn’t been all that pretty for Jenkins.

As soon as the new regime had a chance to move Jenkins off left tackle, they did it. That isn’t damning on its own, but it was a curious move. And by sliding him down to right tackle, Jenkins went from the top end of the OL spectrum to the opposite side. Later in OTAs and minicamp, Jenkins was bumped down to second-string right tackle. But unlike when Jaylon Johnson’s shift to the second-unit during OTAs had Head Coach Matt Eberflus saying not to look too deep into the move, no such caveat was added to Jenkins’ demotion down the line.

That felt like a warning shot. Perhaps one that Jenkins would take as a sign of motivation to step his game up at training camp.

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen Jenkins mix it up at camp to this point. Jenkins hasn’t been at the last three practices, creating a new chapter in an odd situation. Moreover, the Bears haven’t done Jenkins any favors by being evasive in answering questions about his whereabouts or injury status. It feels like we’ve been down this road with Jenkins before. Except when Jenkins was missing practice due to a back injury last summer, he was still on the sideline with his position group and coaches. Thus, making Jenkins’ absence this summer that much more peculiar.

And in re-capping the first week of Bears camp, David Kaplan shares some insight that might help bridge the gaps and fill in what’s going on with Jenkins:

There is a bunch of stuff in that nearly 6-minute video from Kaplan that rings plausible to me. For instance, the nugget about a “high level of disconnect” between Jenkins and the Bears’ coaches. This isn’t wholly unfamiliar territory. A new coaching staff not vibing with an old regime’s top pick is nothing new in football. But there is other, more telling nuggets Kaplan offers that set off some alarms.

Kaplan shares that someone close to the Bears called Jenkins “their most talented lineman” (which is nice) but also “wildly immature” (which isn’t). If the immaturity stuff is true, which is a pretty important if in the grand scheme of things, this is problematic and worrisome. And that is without wondering if these issues are what made Jenkins’ draft stock slide out of the first round in 2021 in the first place.

The combination of injury issues and maturity concerns can do a number to sink a players stock. Jenkins being unable to harness his talents is one thing. After all, players not living up to their potential happens often in the NFL. But if he isn’t taking his demotion well, that further complicates things. Not just for his development, but also for the state of the offensive line as a whole. Jenkins was set to be a key cog in this Bears rebuild. But if there are issues keeping him from reaching his full potential, then it will set the offensive line back.

To be clear, I don’t want to be out here acting like Jenkins is some sort of head case. Going to that place would be like jumping ship at the first sign of turbulence. But perhaps there is something at play here beyond the injuries and the fact that the Poles regime didn’t draft him. And thinking through this situation reminds me a bit of the early stage of the Kyle Fuller-Vic Fangio dynamic.

If you’ll recall, Fuller was a Phil Emery draft pick who was a plug-and-play starter on Mel Tucker’s defense. But Fuller seemed to clash with Fangio early in his Bears career. Fuller struggled to play to his strengths, battled through injuries, and was at odds with his defensive coordinator. When the Bears put Fuller on season-ending IR in 2016, it was Fangio publicly questioning the cornerback’s desire to return to the field after an injury. The Trib’s Brad Biggs wrote at the time Fangio’s words were a “damning evaluation” possibly signaling the end of Fuller’s time with the Bears. But a year later, Fuller was bouncing back, establishing himself as one of the league’s top corners, and earning a hefty extension.

In other words, there is precedent that possible head butting between Jenkins and Bears coaches could be simply just another hurdle in a player’s development. It doesn’t necessarily have to go down the dark path. But that we’re here and looking into a potential abyss isn’t a good sign. Nor is this a sturdy foundation for a football relationship. Stay tuned. This situation is far from reaching its end game.

written by

Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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