Bears

Hub Arkush: Offensive line becomes hottest topic around Bears camp with new arrivals

Chicago Bears offensive line Teven Jenkins works on the field at the team's practice facility, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Lake Forest.

LAKE FOREST – Roquan Smith is “in a good spot,” Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said.

“We had a great conversation, talking to him about where he is,” Eberflus said after the Bears’ first practice of training camp Wednesday. “He’s focused. He’s in meetings, and he’s wired in in that way.”

Of course, as near as we can tell the only reason he’s “physically unable to perform” is he doesn’t want to, but the linebacker obviously will stay stashed on the PUP list until either he or general manager Ryan Poles blinks.

Robert Quinn practiced Wednesday and met the media afterward, insisting his summerlong “Where’s Waldo” act was much ado about nothing, he is happy as a Chicago Bear and hopes to remain so.

I guess we will see what we shall see?

Where that leaves us is the biggest story around the team now has become the arrival of reinforcements for the offensive line and where it leaves the youngsters they hope to replace.

Poles on Tuesday addressed the recent signings of Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield.

“Just in terms of athleticism, quickness, that kind of fits what we’re trying to do,” Poles said. “In terms of the makeup, the toughness, the grit, that stands out as well and both are very intelligent.”

Eberflus said, “What’s great about signing those two guys is they have flex – they’ve played left, they’ve played right, they’ve played inside.

“We’re in a much better spot with those two guys on our roster than we were 24 hours ago.”

I doubt anyone would argue any of that, but it does still beg the questions where will they play, and what does it do to the present and futures of Teven Jenkins, Larry Borom, Braxton Jones and Zachary Thomas as well as veterans Sam Mustipher, Julie’n Davenport and Shon Coleman?

Certainly the GM and head coach are genuine in their enthusiasm for the competition they’ve created, but you should make the bets right now if you can get any kind of odds at all on Reiff starting at tackle and Schofield at right guard.

With Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick locked in at left guard and center, respectively, it leaves the only real competition at right tackle, swing tackle, a combo backup center/guard and perhaps one more tackle and one more guard if they keep nine offensive linemen on the final 53-man roster.

Until last weekend, much of the focus has been on Borom and Jenkins, and Borom appears to have a pretty big lead right now in the race for the other starting tackle spot.

Reiff was pretty adamant he prefers the left tackle spot when asked Wednesday.

“I spent the majority of my career there,” Reiff said. “But I’m open to playing anything. I mean, I played guard going back to college. Wherever I can help this team win, I’m willing to do it.”

It would appear that’s the Bears’ plan, but the great majority of personnel folks I’ve talked to agree that over his career Reiff has been much more effective on the right side than the left.

Obviously, there is a long way to go, as Patrick is quick to point out.

“We will definitely wait until the pads get on,” he said. “That’s one thing you can only do as an offensive lineman. We have to block people, so when the pads get on, that’s a really good test to see where guys fit and how you fit everything.”

Still, it is getting harder and harder to not ask the quiet part out loud.

While Borom has exceeded all expectations, Jenkins clearly has disappointed. And although I’m not saying they don’t like Jenkins, Poles and Eberflus have nothing invested in him.

Is last year’s 39th overall pick in danger of not making this team?

The Bears obviously still are infatuated with Jones, who was with the first team again Wednesday, and Davenport is the only known quantity as a swing tackle.

Perhaps they’d look at Jenkins inside, but Mustipher as a backup guard and center gives them much more flexibility, and the rookie Thomas is a more natural fit.

There is still plenty of time for things to change, and let’s not forget injuries are almost certain to come into play, too.

But it’s becoming impossible not to see Jenkins’ prospects dimming by the day.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.