Bears

Chicago Bears training camp notes: Matt Eberflus tries out lineman Teven Jenkins at guard

Eberflus on Roquan Smith: We’re ‘always working on relationships’

Chicago Bears offensive tackle Teven Jenkins stretches before the Bears take on the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Aug. 13, 2022, at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Bears beat the Kansas City Chiefs 19-14.

LAKE FOREST – For Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins, Saturday’s preseason win over the Chiefs was a valuable opportunity to see the field.

“I got to play football,” Jenkins said after the game Saturday. “I can worry about my job and worry about doing it.”

For all the distractions Jenkins faced in recent weeks, his 36 snaps – mostly at right tackle – were a chance to forget the swirling rumors that the Bears were looking to trade him. Two weeks ago, Jenkins sat out several days of training camp and the NFL Network reported that the team was holding trade discussions involving Jenkins.

Now, Jenkins could be finding a new home. Not as in a new team, but as in a new position. On Monday morning, the Bears moved Jenkins to right guard. Then on Tuesday, he took a ton of reps during practice at right guard with the first-team offense.

The 24-year-old, who was the 39th overall draft pick in 2021, hasn’t started a game at guard since his redshirt freshman season at Oklahoma State in 2017. Former Bears general manager Ryan Pace drafted Jenkins to be the team’s left tackle of the future. A back injury during training camp last year derailed that plan quickly. Jenkins missed much of the season, appearing in the final six games, making two starts.

Since new general manager Ryan Poles entered the picture, Jenkins has almost exclusively played right tackle. In recent weeks, he has been buried on the depth chart at that position behind Riley Reiff and Larry Borom.

At this point, the Bears have nothing to lose in testing Jenkins out at guard. Veteran Michael Schofield, who started at right guard in Saturday’s preseason game, worked with the second-team offense on Tuesday.

“You never put a ceiling on a player,” head coach Matt Eberflus said when asked about Jenkins. “ So you’ll always have to watch out for that as a coach. You don’t put a ceiling on him. Let him grow. Let him do his thing because some people mature and grow at different times.”

Offensive line coach Chris Morgan said the Bears wouldn’t ask Jenkins to do anything they didn’t believe he could handle. Morgan believes Jenkins has the right attributes to succeed at guard.

“He’s got great size,” Morgan said. “He’s got good strength. He’s a smart football player. Those are all things you want inside, that translate inside. Things move fast inside.”

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy noted on Monday that, in some ways, guard is more taxing mentally in this offensive scheme than tackle.

The way the Bears offensive linemen are moving laterally and trying to get into the second level of the defense makes it harder on guards than other schemes.

“I feel like the other systems I was in, you didn’t quite have to use your eyes as much at guard,” starting left guard Cody Whitehair said. “But there’s a lot of responsibility that your eyes have to be right, as far as getting to the second level and seeing different blitzes.”

The Bears list Jenkins at 6-foot-6, 321 pounds, and Jenkins confirmed last week that he is still at 321 pounds. Jenkins also indicated that the outside zone scheme Oklahoma State played wasn’t so different from what the Bears are trying to do under Getsy.

Now is the time to test Jenkins. He likely will see a fair number of snaps in Thursday’s preseason game against Seattle.

Taking attendance: Eberflus said center Doug Kramer is going to be out for a while with a “lower-leg injury.” The team placed Kramer on injured reserve later Tuesday. The Bears signed undrafted rookie Corey Dublin out of Tulane on Tuesday. Dublin has experience at guard and center. The fact that the Bears brought in another center is probably a bad sign for Kramer’s injury.

Safety Jaquan Brisker sat out practice for the second day in a row. Other players absent included receiver Byron Pringle, receiver Chris Finke, cornerback Tavon Young, safety Dane Cruikshank, cornerback Greg Stroman Jr. and receiver Tajae Sharpe.

The Bears waived cornerback Michael Joseph, linebacker Javin White and cornerback Jayson Stanley with injury designations. Those moves, combined with Kramer going on IR, bring the roster to 85 players. All NFL teams needed to cut down to 85 players Tuesday.

Linebacker Roquan Smith continues to sit out practice as he awaits a new contract.

The latest on Roquan: There appears to be little progress being made in Smith’s contract dispute. The 25-year-old linebacker is set to make $9.7 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract, but is sitting out practice because he wants a long-term extension with the team.

Smith made a public trade request last week. He is negotiating without a licensed NFL agent.

On Tuesday, the NFL Management Council sent a memo to all 32 teams warning them that a person contacting teams about trading for Smith isn’t a certified agent, according to the NFL Network and ESPN. The NFL reminded teams that any contact with a player under contract, or his agent, without direct permission from that player’s team is a tampering violation.

Eberflus declined to say much about Smith’s situation when asked about it Tuesday.

“You’re always working on relationships and I know I say that a lot,” Eberflus said. “But it’s so important, with Roquan and any other player. It’s important to keep the relationship and communication open and on the table and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.