After a year of ups and downs, Chicago Bears guard Teven Jenkins plans ‘to stay hungry’

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 – Teven Jenkins was hard on himself Monday morning as Bears players cleaned out their lockers at Halas Hall. Jenkins wanted to finish the season strong.

Missing time because of a neck injury was not how he envisioned ending the season.

“I’m disappointed in myself a little bit because I wanted to finish the season with my brothers this year, especially missing how many games I did last year with my back surgery,” Jenkins said. “Coming back this year and getting injured again, it’s not something I want to deal with.”

Given what has transpired over the past year, it’s somewhat miraculous that Jenkins played for the Bears at all. A year ago, people were calling Jenkins a bust. Former Bears general manager Ryan Pace selected Jenkins with the 39th overall draft pick in 2021.

Pace envisioned Jenkins as the left tackle of the future. Instead, Jenkins needed back surgery before the season even started and wound up starting only two games. The Bears fired Pace a year ago and brought in new GM Ryan Poles.

Poles and first-year head coach Matt Eberflus first moved Jenkins to right tackle in the spring, then buried him on the depth chart. Jenkins started his training camp sidelined by a mysterious back injury. There was some speculation, and even a report from the NFL Network, that Poles was seeking trade offers for Jenkins.

Not until the coaching staff moved Jenkins to right guard did the 24-year-old find his place. Jenkins shot up the depth chart and wound up starting Week 1 at the position. He turned out to be one of the team’s best linemen when he was healthy.

In a lot of ways, this was somewhat like a rookie season for Jenkins. He barely played in 2021, and he changed positions over the offseason. He said his coaches liked the flashes he showed but want more consistency.

“I’ll have great plays, driving somebody like 10 yards or so,” Jenkins said. “The next play I might only do it for a yard or not be as great as the play before.”

In Jenkins’ mind, his job is far from secure next season. The Bears have more cap space than any other team in the NFL, and they have nine draft picks, including the first overall pick.

“I mean, we have a lot of cap space and a lot of opportunities in this draft, so I really don’t know how it’s going to go,” Jenkins said. “I don’t ever want to be the person to say, ‘Yeah, I have a spot.’ I don’t want to do that because I always want to stay hungry and feel like I still have to chase my job even if I have it secure.”

Jenkins said he will be paying attention to what Poles and the front office do this offseason. Other players might say they don’t pay attention, but Jenkins said those moves affect him and his family. Of course he’s going to pay attention.

Jenkins’ neck is getting better. At this point, he said, it will just take a little time. He injured his neck on Dec. 18 in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field. He returned to action two weeks later but re-aggravated the injury on Jan. 1 in a game at Detroit. He sat out the season finale Sunday.

Jenkins does not expect it to be something that will carry over into next season.

On paper, Jenkins looks like a sure thing for the offensive line in 2023, provided he remains healthy. But as he said himself, the Bears have the resources to replace anyone.

“Overall, there are a lot of things I need to improve on,” Jenkins said. “I did a few good things, but I feel like there’s more things I need to improve on than I did good.”

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.