It isn’t even training camp yet, and head coach Matt Eberflus has found a way to surprise people. His Chicago Bears coaching staff shocked plenty of the media when they reshuffled the offensive line towards the end of OTAs. After going with Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins at left and right tackle, they shifted that combination to rookie Braxton Jones and Borom. Jenkins was moved to right tackle on the second-team offense.
The head coach tried to play it off as the team merely experimenting with different combinations. However, that doesn’t compute with anybody who has common sense. If that were the case, Borom would’ve been demoted at one point. A player isn’t removed from a starting position like that unless they’re showing something the coaches don’t like. Yet without much context, it’s been difficult to determine what that is with Jenkins.
Now we may finally have an idea.
The Bears conducted their first of three veteran minicamps on Tuesday. As offensive drills unfolded, it was clear the same combination was in place on the offensive line—Jones at left tackle and Borom at right. Jenkins was still on the second team. It was here that media members got their first taste of what might be the problem that convinced coaches a change was needed. Nicholas Moreano of CHGO.com caught sight of it during practice.
“Rookie defensive end Carson Taylor out of Northern Arizona made a few good plays throughout the practice. Against the second-team offense, Taylor beat right tackle Teven Jenkins to the outsidethen shed the block to work back inside and Taylor would’ve been in perfect position to make the tackle on the running back.”
It would be one thing if Taylor were a higher draft choice in the 1st or 2nd round. They are expected to flash their potential in practice. He is not. The kid was an undrafted free agent. Getting beat by the likes of him during drills is a red flag. He’s a former 2nd round pick, somebody the previous regime traded up to get. They viewed him as a franchise-caliber tackle. For him to be getting beat by undrafted rookies is not encouraging.
Teven Jenkins’ future may not be at tackle.
Even before the draft last year, some experts had concerns about him playing on the outside. They cited his shorter-than-preferred arms and average footspeed as weaknesses that would be difficult to overcome in passing situations. Due to Jenkins not playing much last season, the problem never really manifested enough to set off alarm bells. Now that he’s healthy, he has played every rep in practice to this point.
It hasn’t gone as hoped. Now, this may be a temporary thing. Teven Jenkins spent most of last season working at left tackle. Since Eberflus and his staff took over, they decided to move him back to the right side. These setbacks could be him having to retrain his muscles to remember that side. Then again, such adjustments aren’t so challenging that a player routinely gets beat by backups in drills.
This is a problem.
If the current starting combination ends up holding, then the Bears have a decision to make. Either they keep Jenkins as a backup at tackle, or they consider him switching positions again. This time it would be inside to guard. That might be a better long-term fit for him. It would mitigate the length and footspeed concerns while accenting his excellent power. He still has plenty of talent. It is on the coaches to find the best way to use it.
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