If you follow football closely, you understand that an offense is only as good as the five very large men it has on the offensive line. A team can have all the talent in the world at the skill positions. A quarterback can be a Pro Bowler, an All-Pro, a superstar. But in the end, if the offensive wall of man can’t hold, then that attack will never reach its true potential.
For the longest time, it wasn’t always certain the current Bears regime understood this. In the six drafts prior to 2021, Chicago drafted zero offensive tackles higher than the sixth round. And without development of worthwhile long-term franchise anchors, the Bears’ offense understandably suffered, regardless of lofty investments it made at virtually every other offensive position.
The selection of Teven Jenkins this past April aims to flip such a directive. The 23-year-old former Oklahoma State standout tackle was considered a blue-chip prospect, among the finest of any player available in the 2021 Draft. He now projects to be the Bears’ future left tackle, the hopeful blindside protector to one Justin Fields.
I spoke to Micah Allen, the Managing Editor of Cowboys Ride for Free — SB Nation’s Oklahoma State affiliate — and learned a lot more about Chicago’s new 320-pound anchor. According to her, the Bears should be so lucky to have a player like Jenkins providing their foundation.
1. Certainly one of the more accomplished prospects from this year’s draft, it seems like Jenkins should have an even higher profile. How would you characterize his place at Oklahoma State? How valuable was he to the Cowboys?
Micah Allen: Jenkins became a true leader on the offensive line over the course of his time at Oklahoma State. Some of that was due to injuries at the position, but I think he was also really able to grow under position coach Charlie Dicke. He became an all-around player with a lot of experience and versatility at multiple spots. He was a saving grace on a line that was often battered and bruised. Mind you, he often played through injury himself.
2. One of the monikers about Jenkins is the stereotypical “soft giant off the field, monster on it” profile. While it doesn’t appear to be something that an old school football brain would appreciate - hence Jenkins falling to the second round - it’s something Bears fans, in particular, have already grown to love about him. How does that image match up with the Jenkins you’re familiar with?
MA: I think it matches up perfectly. He seems like a joyful teammate and someone that likes to have fun. But when it comes time to play in a game he’s all business. I’ve always enjoyed that about Jenkins. He has a great personality that makes him a fun player to follow. Jenkins seems like a teddy bear. But if you poke the bear, run.
3. What are Jenkins’s strengths as an offensive lineman? Considering that the Bears are planning on playing him on the left side immediately, how should they structure his development?
MA: One of Jenkins’s strengths is that he’s a jack of all trades. He can fit in anywhere you want him. He has excellent body control as well. I think the best way to structure his development is to hone in on that aspect of his game. Help him work to his strengths and use that body control. Work with him in a couple of different places and see where the best fit is. It looks like left tackle is that first spot.
4. What are Jenkins’ weaknesses as an offensive lineman? What will the Bears’ offensive staff have to focus on early on with him? Do you think he can live up to these high All-Pro expectations Chicago is envisioning?
MA: His arms are a bit short. They’re going to have to work on him being able to get around that, especially against better athletes in the NFL. However, I do think he can be an All-Pro and I think he has the determination to build himself into someone that can consistently keep up with NFL defenders. That also means Jenkins is likely going to have to hone in on gaining more speed. But he’s certainly got the follow-through on tackles down, which is already a big step toward the All-Pro inside him.
5. What is a favorite anecdote or moment about Jenkins’s collegiate career that people might not be familiar with?
MA: This isn’t my personal Jenkins anecdote, but I love this quote from head coach Mike Gundy, per Sports Illustrated:
“‘You know Teven, can you name the one person in this weight room that’s worth $40 million? He looks at me like I’m trying to give him a haircut or something,’” Gundy said on Monday recounting a conversation from this summer. Heck, maybe it was last summer. “And he says, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘You, if you decide to work really hard. If you decide to just say you know what, I’m gonna do it. You’re that guy.’ That’s the kind of talent that he has. If he just gets his mind focused on that’s what I want to do. That’s the level that he can get to.”
I think the faith Gundy had in Jenkins says the most about who he is as a football player and a person.