Chicago Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins was supposed to be a big part of the offensive rebuild when he was selected in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Sure, it was a now-fired regime that drafted him, but he was universally viewed as a first-round talent that the Bears stole in Round 2.
His career got off to an unfortunate start when he underwent back surgery prior to his first training camp. He missed the entire preseason and appeared in just six games as a rookie (two starts). Jenkins’ play was a mixed bag of rusty and promising, but for most of this offseason, he’s been penciled as a starter at right tackle.
Jenkins in the starting lineup feels like a long shot, now.
His slow but steady descent started during minicamps when he began rotating in an out of the starting lineup. The Bears moved rookie Braxton Jones to the first-team left tackle and kicked Larry Borom over to the right side. It was a shift that knocked Teven Jenkins down the depth chart, where he remained on the first day of training camp. And that was also the last time we’ve seen him on the practice field.
Speculation about why Jenkins isn’t practicing has spanned the full range of potential reasons. Perhaps, his bad back is flaring up. Maybe it’s COVID. According to NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan, it may be something that isn’t health-related. Teven Jenkins may have a maturity problem.
Jenkins spoke at length this offseason about the changes he made to his training regiment and diet in order to fit offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s system. He said he wants to earn coach Matt Eberflus’ trust, too. And while most of what he said was encouraging, he did leave a few breadcrumbs about his choices off the field that can have a negative long-term impact.
“I’ve been trying to cut out some more alcohol out of my system,” Jenkins said in May. “I’m trying to get more cleansed out, I guess. And also that does help with your body fat. Instead of drinking all that beerー all that fat just sits on youー you burn it off.”
If Jenkins is, in fact, clashing with the Chicago Bears coaching staff, it’ll be a hard shift from his perspective only a couple of months ago.
“I’m working for that trust,” Jenkins said. “That’s ultimately what I want to have. Getting more of that trust that they have into me will make me feel more comfortable.”
For now, Teven Jenkins’ absence remains a mystery. The Chicago Bears haven’t helped the situation with their secrecy. Speculation — like Kaplan suggesting Jenkins has a maturity issue — will continue. If the rumors are true, Jenkins’ time in Chicago could be short-lived.
Hopefully, that won’t be the case. Hopefully, Jenkins is dealing with an injury that needs a few days to heal. The Bears’ offensive line is better with Jenkins as a part of it, even if he has to earn a starting job the hard way.