Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins played the majority of his collegiate career at the right tackle position.
A three-year starter for Oklahoma State, Jenkins played 26 of his 35 career starts at right tackle. The Cowboys had him move over to guard for two games in 2017, and he also saw a couple of starts at left tackle in 2018 and 2019. The intention was for Jenkins to start as the team’s left tackle in 2020, but injuries to his teammates saw him moved back to the right side.
For his breakout campaign at right tackle, though, there is one game in which Jenkins played at left tackle. In his outing against Tulsa, the 6-foot-6, 320-pounder started the game off on the left side but had to switch to right tackle to kick off the third quarter due to injury. He would remain on that side for the entirety of the 2020 season.
It’s a small sample size, but that game should serve of particular interest to Bears fans. With Charles Leno Jr. having been released, the general understanding is that Jenkins will step in as the team’s left tackle. While a notable risk considering the rookie has only played seven games at the collegiate level at that position, his tape against Tulsa does indicate he could more than hold his own there.
Let’s take a look at what Jenkins was able to show in his lone 2020 start at left tackle.
One thing that stood out on tape about Jenkins was his polished footwork and his football IQ in pass protection. He had the chance to display said traits at great lengths as a right tackle, but he also looked more than capable of doing the same at left tackle against Tulsa.
Here, Jenkins uses his vertical pass set against a 7-technique defensive end. Given the distance off the line of scrimmage between him and the defender, he expects the opponent to utilize an outside speed rush. However, the edge rusher decides to alter his pursuit angles, disguising the speed rush as a means to cut across Jenkins’ body and bounce inside.
What the defender may not expect, though, was Jenkins’ quick processing of his movements to shift laterally and remain squared up to him. With his hand placement and the raw power in his upper body, Jenkins is able to stop the edge rusher dead in his tracks.
Oklahoma State utilized plenty of outside-zone blocking philosophies in 2020, making Jenkins a great fit in a Bears system that figures to use that approach quite a bit this coming season.
On this run, Jenkins is quick out of his stance and times his burst very well. That quickness off the snap gives him a subtle but important advantage over the 5-technique, who isn’t even tardy in his first step. Jenkins’ ability to roll his hips through contact seals off the defender from the outside run and clears up the C-gap for his teammate to run through. He keeps his legs churning through contact to generate significant push off the ball and uses his tremendous grip strength to prevent the defender from disengaging.
Though the play ends with Jenkins falling on the ground and losing balance, that doesn’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things. By the time the defender is able to free his hands up and disengage, the running back has blown past him, and Jenkins has completely removed him from the play.
Jenkins excelled as a path-clearer in the run game at right tackle for Oklahoma State, and he certainly carried that expectation against Tulsa.
On this outside-zone run, Jenkins is quick to find work by helping double-team the 3-technique. This decision, along with the flow of the play and the running back’s smart decision to cut back, makes it tougher for the defensive lineman to make a play. Jenkins uses his situational awareness to know that he can disengage from the defender, as the flow of the play would see one of his teammates run into said defender.
Jenkins disengages thusly and heads towards the freed-up and downhill-charging strong safety. The safety (No. 1) has a clear angle to the running back, but Jenkins is able to remain engaged with the 3-technique just long enough to keep him occupied, but disengages quickly enough to accelerate and pummel the charging safety. He has a decision to make as a blocker to trust a defensive lineman or a safety more to flip his hips and work across his body to make a tackle in run support, and Jenkins wisely takes out the more athletic defender. The running back’s choice to cut inside and his lateral agility help him pick up an extra three or four yards out of the run than what could have happened had he stayed running towards the outside.
Going up against another 7-technique edge defender on this rep, Jenkins takes a different approach in his pass set. Rather than using a vertical set and shuffling laterally, he opts for a jump set to create immediate contact with the defender. He explodes out of his stance with impressive quickness for a blocker of his size and frame and lands the inside hand into chest of the defender. This placement is especially important, as it allows Jenkins to hold control of the battle at the point of attack.
The play results in a sack, but that result certainly wasn’t Jenkins’ fault; the only reason the defender seems close to collapsing the pocket was due to the quarterback scrambling to his left to try and avoid the incoming defender. Jenkins did his job and used his athletic ability to get in the way and hold his own upon contact.
Granted, is one half of football an extremely small sample size, and is an NFL defense going to be more difficult than that of a Group of 5 college? The answer is most definitely yes to both questions, but as a long-term fit, Jenkins has displayed in spurts that he can play left tackle and still be as efficient there as he is at right tackle.
The narrative that Jenkins “isn’t athletic enough” or “doesn’t have long enough arms” to play left tackle in the NFL simply doesn’t have much substance to it. Did I project him as a right tackle heading into the 2021 NFL Draft? Yes, but that’s simply because he excelled at that position, and switches from right to left tackle in the NFL are generally pretty rare.
However, Jenkins has shown flashes of being able to excel on the blind side. The Bears certainly hope said flashes will translate in a stellar career at the next level.