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Inside Bears camp: What’s up with Teven Jenkins? Justin Fields faces scout team and more

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Offensive tackle Teven Jenkins missed his seventh consecutive practice on Friday. It has been one week since Bears coach Matt Eberflus categorized Jenkins’ absence as day-to-day.

Eberflus hasn’t said anything about Jenkins beyond that the 2021 second-rounder is working with the trainers.

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy offered a little bit more of a glimpse into what Jenkins has been up to in the meeting rooms at Halas Hall as he has yet to be spotted on the field during practice.

“Teven’s been great,” Getsy said Friday. “He’s been attentive. He’s all in. Once he gets through this deal, he’ll be back out there ready to rock and roll.”

Eberflus’ decision to not provide any details about what is ailing Jenkins, combined with an NFL Network report last week that trade talks have taken place, has led to plenty of speculation about Jenkins. It’s a social media reality in 2022 that hasn’t seemed to affect the Bears’ decision to stay quiet, and Jenkins has clearly seen what’s being said.

Often, when trade talks get leaked, it can be fait accompli. If we’re to believe Getsy, though, it’s as simple as Jenkins is working through an injury and he will soon enter the battle to start at offensive tackle.

“He’s going to get thrown right into the mix of this competition at the tackles, too,” Getsy said. “I mean, that’s … this is an open (competition) — right, left, whatever. We’re trying to find the best five, so when he gets back, he’s someone who’s super talented that should jump in there and hopefully he takes advantage of the opportunities he’s going to get.”

The Bears traded up in Round 2 last April to draft Jenkins, then released Charles Leno Jr. to anoint Jenkins as the left tackle of the future. But Jenkins underwent back surgery last summer before returning for the end of the season. He played 161 snaps as a rookie.

Jenkins participated in OTAs and minicamp, eventually moving to second-team right tackle after opening spring practices as the starter. At his only practice of camp, he did some work as an extra lineman and otherwise was still with the backups.

“For me, it’s about earning trust and earning their belief that I deserve to be on this team still,” Jenkins said in June about the new regime. “I’m working for that trust. That’s ultimately what I want to do. Putting more of that trust they have into me will make me feel more comfortable. I am working for that trust.”

With the first preseason game a week away, it seems unlikely that Jenkins would get any reps, even if he returned to practice this weekend. He has a lot of catching up to do.

“The big thing is that it’s all mental for him now,” guard Michael Schofield said. “He’s just got to take each rep when he watches it on film and he’s got to put himself in that situation. We’re always hanging out with him. We’re all bringing him up. He’s just got to stay ready for whenever he is ready to go.”

Here comes the rookie

Jenkins’ story is a big one for the offensive line off the field. On it, it’s the emergence of rookie Braxton Jones. He handled every snap at left tackle with the first-team offense for the third day in a row with veteran Riley Reiff rotating with Larry Borom on the right side.

It’s also a streak that stayed alive for Jones after an off day on Thursday, when his coaches had a day to scour his film over two padded practices and alter their plans. Instead, they stayed with Jones at left tackle.

Bears rookie Braxton Jones is making a strong bid to open the season as their starting left tackle. (David Banks / USA Today)

“Braxton … is obviously a super athletic kid that we were excited about after spring ball,” Getsy said. “Then you get into the pads and there was zero intimidation. Going against Robert Quinn your very first one-on-one pass rush, right? It’s an intimidating thing. He stepped up and did a great job. He’s answered the bell. He’s done a really nice job for us.”

He’s more than held his own, too.

A different story is playing out in other places up front. Sam Mustipher still is filling at center for an injured Lucas Patrick (right hand), while Schofield and Ja’Tyre Carter are splitting time at right guard, much like Reiff and Borom at right tackle

“We’re still a ways away for a lot of positions, to be honest with you, and that’s one of them (the offensive line),” Getsy said. “We’ve flipped guys from right to left up front and we’re trying to see whatever combination makes the most sense and which guys are the most flexible for us. So we’ve got a lot of information still to find out.

“This has been a really good week for us, though. You talk about some guys that have stepped up and … how are they going to react when there are pads in the run game? That’s the biggest part.”

Scouting the Bears

Jahns: For the first time in camp, the scout team jerseys came out Friday. It felt earlier than previous regimes we covered, too. Am I wrong in thinking that, Fishman? To be honest, I can’t recall seeing much scout-team work under Matt Nagy during his camp practices, whether it was Bourbonnais or Halas Hall. Quarterback Justin Fields repped plays in his new offense against scouted looks. At the very least, it was a good change of pace for practice.

Fishbain: Getsy said they wanted to get some practice in against a 3-4 defense because there are two NFC North teams that operate with a 30-front — the Packers and Vikings. And the Lions could also use some three-man defensive lines. It makes sense but also meant Fields went against the second-team defense for a portion of practice. His longest completion of the day — a deep ball to Velus Jones Jr. — occurred in the scout team sequence. He also overthrew Equanimeous St. Brown, who had gotten behind the defense. Tight end Cole Kmet had another long gain against the scout team.

Jahns: The drill wasn’t without its mistakes, either. Fields overthrew receiver Tajae Sharpe and was intercepted by safety A.J. Thomas. But it also became an on-the-field opportunity for the coaching staff to correct Fields after a play that the Bears will use against such looks. Let’s not get too carried away. This roster is still short on talent. But Eberflus’ approach to practices could have its benefits when the real football starts. It’s not just the way they’re practicing — the speed, the punches on football and so on — but how they’re preparing.

Fishbain: The 2022 Bears will need every advantage they can get. They’ll be heading into most games as an underdog. If extra work doing scout team reps in practice can benefit them to being ready for what they see on both sides of the ball, they’ll gladly take that. Or maybe they’ll learn for next year that they’re better off with more starters versus starters. We also could be overanalyzing something that is more practical than anything, as it helps them have some reps under their belts against a 3-4 defense. But hey, training camp is nothing if not a time to overanalyze.

Riding the roller coaster

Training camp in a new offense has had its well-chronicled ups and downs for Fields, and the second-year quarterback has to balance his drive and being patient, all with the practices in the public eye.

“This is a process, right?” Getsy said. “And we stress every single day that we’re a process-driven team and our unit is the same way. And it’s all about making sure we get better every single day.

“You’re talking about what makes the great quarterbacks great, it’s just that experience in dealing with all the different situations and understanding them. … (Also) you take walk-throughs that we have at night and just go through situations and you can see them showing up when we get out there on the field in practice.”

As Fields works through that process, Getsy has seen his competitive nature off the field, something that makes him hopeful about Fields’ ability to improve.

“He’s a competitive dude, man,” Getsy said. “You get in that film room and you can see the hunger, you can see the fight. And that’s part of our job, to make sure he has clarity through all that. He has that competitive edge that you need to play in this league, especially at this position. So we just want to make sure that when we finish those meetings, there’s clarity in where he can get progressively better.”

Men at work

Tight end Cole Kmet described Friday’s practice as “the hardest practice I’ve ever been a part of” in his professional career.

“That’s not a joke,” he said. “It’s a tough practice. But it’s good for us to get in shape and see how good we can execute when we’re tired at the end of it. It was a long one.”

It was the Bears’ longest practice of camp. Some players also sat out after two days of hitting on Tuesday and Wednesday, so there were more snaps for Kmet and others.

Safety Eddie Jackson felt it on defense, too. He talked to defensive coordinator Alan Williams about it.

“We were on the sideline talking like a lot of guys, these type of practices, today’s, you can do two things: you can either tap out or stop and cry and complain or you can just step up,” Jackson said. “And when you get through stuff like that, that shows what good teams are made of.”

Bears tight end Cole Kmet said Friday’s practice was the hardest of his career. (David Banks / USA Today)

Jackson and the first-team defense won the “one-minute drill” against Fields and company at the end of practice. A holding penalty helped — one that Getsy seemed to disagree with right away — but Kmet also got the ball knocked from his grasp on a key third down.

The Bears defense also was missing players: defensive end Robert Quinn, defensive backs Kyler Gordon, Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley and defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga.

“Today was a tough day, and for us to just go out there and communicate, fight through it, keep pushing through it, having one another’s backs, echoing calls, and we got those stops against the offense,” Jackson said. “When we’ve got a lot of guys down, so guys got to do these seven- to 10-play reps and no substitution, and just seeing everyone go out there and still fly around, still keep up the intensity, still have the mental focus and things like that that we need, I feel like days like this (show) how you build.”

Attendance report

In addition to Jenkins, Quinn was not present at Friday’s practice. He had been at every practice since the start of camp. Eberflus wasn’t available to the media and the Bears did not provide an update on any players who were absent and/or injured.

The following players were present but not participating in practice, with several spending some time on the exercise bikes: Gordon, Vildor and Shelley; wide receiver Dante Pettis, Tonga, tight end James O’Shaughnessy and linebacker C.J. Avery.

Defensive tackle Angelo Blackson and tight end Chase Allen returned to practice after missing time because of  undisclosed injuries.

Offensive tackle Julién Davenport walked off the field with a trainer late in practice.

Quick hits

• In front of the biggest crowd we’ve seen at camp thus far, rookie running back Trestan Ebner got one of the loudest cheers when he made a move in the open field to help break a long gain early in practice. It can be hard to evaluate the run game in camp, but Ebner’s ability to find daylight was evident.

• It wasn’t an explosive play, but a simple third-down conversion will stand out for an offense still trying to figure things out. Fields did a good job recognizing a blitz and got the ball quickly to Kmet, who had blockers in front of him for a long gain and a first down.

• With Gordon and Shelley sidelined, the Bears opened practice with Greg Stroman Jr. at cornerback opposite Jaylon Johnson. Undrafted rookie Jaylon Jones also got some work at corner with the first-team defense, while Tavon Young played nickel.

• Three standouts from their individual reps in the pass-rush drills: Borom, Cody Whitehair and Justin Jones, who showed off his burst with an inside move to beat Lachavious Simmons.

(Top photo of Teven Jenkins: Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today)

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