Just over a year ago, in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears advanced to the second round to select Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins. At the time, this made the fan base very extremely happy as Jenkins was a big strong physical player who showed dominant ability on tape.
But ever since the Bears picked Jenkins, there have been issues.
The first was last year at camp when he injured his back after just a few practices and underwent surgery. It cost him more than half of his rookie season before he could play. This year, with a new front office and a new coaching staff, things started well, as Jenkins worked with the front offensive line as a right tackle, but that didn’t last long.
Two weeks into the OTAs, he was demoted and Larry Borom was elevated to the No. 1 spot at right tackle.
Then, after just one practice at camp this year, Jenkins went MIA with another injury. He hasn’t trained since last Wednesday. Asked about Jenkins, head coach Matt Eberflus simply replied, “He woke up today with a little something.” Then yesterday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the Bears were taking calls for a trade for Jenkins. One thing is clear, when Rapoport or Adam Schefter report something, there is truth. What happened?
Heading into the 21 draft, many analysts felt Jenkins was a mid-to-late player in the first round, so for the Bears to advance him to the second round at the time felt like a steal.
Unfortunately, things are not always what they are.
Having been involved in the NFL since 1981, I still have several friends in the league who are high level decision makers. As I always do, I make post-draft calls to some of these people asking not only about their club’s draft, but also their feelings on the Bears’ draft.
Some answers surprised me.
Two people (from different clubs) whom I have known for years and greatly respect told me that the Bears’ drafting of Jenkins was a mistake. Both of these clubs had removed Jenkins from their draft committee because they had issues with his footballing character.
I often talk about footballing character and that has nothing to do with personal character. The football character deals with a player’s passion and love for the game, his work ethic, his desire to be a great player and his tenacity, among others.
Some of the people I spoke to said that Jenkins’ tenacity was pseudo to false tenacity. They added that while he was a hard worker in the weight room, there were other areas of concern, and finally, he can be difficult to train at times.
I know what I saw on tape, so I was skeptical when I first heard that. On tape, Jenkins is a very physical player who attacks his opponents. He seemed to be playing like he had an average streak. Well, now 15 months later, it seems my sources were correct.
Being in the League for as long as I have, I understand some things very well. If two clubs had reservations about Jenkins, you can bet there were others. How many, I don’t know.
There have been unsubstantiated reports that there is a disconnect between Chris Morgan, the Bears’ o-line coach, and Jenkins. It may or may not be a fact, but if there is, it’s a huge problem. It’s a difficult task to ask a coach to work with a player he doesn’t like or respect. This will NEVER work. Morgan, who is highly respected in the league, was with the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, and I don’t know if the Steelers were one of the clubs that had reservations about Jenkins. I also don’t know if Kansas City or Philadelphia had any bookings, as those are the two clubs that general manager Ryan Poles and assistant general manager Ian Cunningham worked for. If those clubs in fact had reservations about Jenkins, then Jenkins had already had strikes against him the day those people were hired.
If there was a problem between Coach Morgan and Jenkins during the OTAs, it escalated the situation. In fact, that could very well be one of the reasons the Bears signed Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield early in training camp. Perhaps the Bears knew the Jenkins situation wasn’t going to work out.
When I worked with Harry Hiestand, the Bears’ o-line coach under Lovie Smith, I would send him to work on many offensive linemen that we were interested in. Why? His input was important because he was going to be the coach working with the player. Harry always came back with a thumbs up or thumbs down whether or not he wanted to work with the player. If he felt the player wouldn’t fit in with the veteran offensive linemen we had, we definitely weren’t going to draft that player. The o-line room had a strong veteran presence with guys like Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, John Tait and Ruben Brown. We weren’t going to play with chemistry!
Many may ask, “how can the Bears give up a second-round draft pick before he really has a chance.” The answer is simple. The current coaching staff and front office didn’t draft Jenkins, so they owe him nothing. They run the program the way they see fit and if a player doesn’t fit the way they want to do things, they’ll leave regardless of their draft status.
Yes, it will cost the Bears money if they trade or cut Jenkins, but the fact remains that this regime only wants players they believe can help the Bears win early in their program.
Can this situation be fixed? Yes, but it will be difficult. Yesterday’s Rapoport report could have been deliberately released to be used as a “wake-up call” for Jenkins. In other words, obey or you’ll be gone. If so, nothing will happen for at least a few days. If the Bears are determined to get rid of Jenkins, he could very well be gone before you get a chance to read this. Then last year’s draft pick turns into a wasted second-round pick because they won’t come close to it back if a trade develops.
The next few days will be interesting at Halas Hall.
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