Before officially demoting Teven Jenkins to the second team, Matt Eberflus and the offensive coaching staff should try him at right guard.
Jenkins’ demotion was a surprise because, if the Bears had any questions about his ability to play right tackle, why didn’t they do more to address the position in the offseason? As it stands, the team promoted fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones to left tackle and moved 2021 fifth-rounder Larry Borom to right tackle, with Jenkins taking snaps with the second team.
Eberflus has said it was always part of the team’s plan to move players around, but that excuse doesn’t make sense for a variety of reasons. For starters, the team didn’t even have Jones until the draft. If they planned on having a draft pick seriously compete for playing time, they would’ve spent an earlier pick on the position. Secondly, it isn’t as if Jenkins is in a rotation, he was firmly on the second team, with Borom switching positions to take Jenkins’ starting reps. Lastly, the idea that they’re getting a good look at offensive linemen at this point is flawed because they have yet to see the players do any blocking.
It’s hard to figure out how Jenkins could’ve lost the job or why they made the move at all, but — anyway you figure it — it doesn’t look good for Jenkins’ 2022 outlook, at least not at tackle.
There is so much we don’t know, but assuming Jenkins is physically capable of playing, the team would be wise to try him at guard instead of forcing a competition at tackle.
We also shouldn’t dismiss Jones’ ascension as something that was always a part of the plan. It isn’t just that he moved Jenkins to the bench, but he moved past veteran Julie’n Davenport — a 27-year-old with 32 career starts, who was likely signed as insurance in case Jenkins or Borom couldn’t play. We can figure that the team views Borom as being better than Jenkins — that’s the only logical conclusion to draw after they moved Borom to the right side and Jenkins to the bench.
Perhaps Jenkins can prove to be better than one of or both the other young tackles once pads come on. It seems just as likely that there is something about the way Jenkins moves that has the team doubting his ability. We know from his college tape and the little bit he played last year that Jenkins can move people, but he really struggled in pass protection as a rookie. It was easy to chalk up his rookie struggles as him not being in playing shape after back surgery, but his pre-training camp demotion makes it clear there is something the new Bears staff doesn’t like.
Eberflus has said the team will play the best five linemen. Assuming they’re OK with Borom starting at one spot, they could have Davenport and Jones battle at left tackle. A move inside to guard would minimize Jenkins’ struggles in pass protection and emphasize his physicality. He is similar to Kyle Long in that nobody wants to match up with him in a phone booth, but he may not have the feet or length to match-up outside.