We’ve reached the top three in our look at the ten Chicago Bears with the most to prove in 2023. Check out the story stream here with the first seven Bears on the list. The list already includes Cody Whitehair and Braxton Jones and we find yet another offensive linemen on the list coming in at number three.
3. Teven Jenkins
In 2022, Teven Jenkins showed why Ryan Pace traded up for him and selected him in the second round of the 2021 draft. Jenkins showed the ability to be a terrific road grater, dominating defenders and putting plenty of them are their butts. He had up and down results as a pass blocker, but he was clearly the team’s best run blocker and arguably the team’s best blocker overall last season.
So when Ryan Poles makes one free agent acquisition to help the offensive line in March, it was a bit odd that he selected a right guard in Nate Davis to add to the mix. Jenkins has bounced around quite a bit to start his NFL career, and he will be on the move again this year switching from right guard to left guard. Davis has played right guard exclusively for the Tennessee Titans over his first four years in the NFL and beyond that, he spent almost his entire collegiate career playing right guard as well.
Jenkins has gone from right tackle to left tackle to right guard and now to left guard. He’s certainly gaining position flexibility, but it’s also difficult on an offensive linemen to continually change positions. When Poles and Matt Eberflus moved Jenkins from tackle to guard last offseason, there were some odd things going on around Jenkins that we never really heard the entire story as to what was going on. There were a couple rumors that said Jenkins was upset he was moving to guard, and the Bears told him if he wanted to remain a Bear, it would be at guard, something Jenkins finally accepted.
Regardless of how it started, Jenkins excelled at right guard last season. Most expect Jenkins to perform just as well from the left side, but with a position move, there is always a chance of regression. If Jenkins avoids regression and matches or improves upon his 2022 performance, he’s out to prove to Ryan Poles that he should be a part of the Bears’ roster moving forward.
Jenkins needs to prove to this regime that he can stay healthy and that he is a key building block on this roster. Jenkins will be eligible for a contract extension after this season, and if the Bears are going to commit to him, he needs to be on the field for close to the entire season and continue to be an effective blocker.
Remember, Jenkins was part of a rotation at guard to start the year. He didn’t slide completely in as a starter until after Cody Whitehair’s injury and that, combined with injury, he only started 11 games last year. I think many of us remember how well Jenkins played last year and don’t really remember just how hesitant this regime was to commit to him.
When Poles was hired, he talked about how his top priority was going to be the rebuild the offensive line. So far, he’s replaced three of the five spots with his own guys and two of the top three backups are Poles’ guys as well. Jenkins and Cody Whitehair remain the only two holdovers (and I suppose Larry Borom as well) from the Pace regime, and I think most assume that Whitehair is simply a place holder until they find their center of the future (probably 2024).
Jenkins is out to prove that he can be a hold over from the Pace regime and be a part of the future of the new regime moving forward. It may take two more seasons of healthy and effective play from Jenkins to earn a contract extension, this season may not be enough. Jenkins is wildly popular amongst Bears fans and certainly played well when he was on the field in 2022, but if Poles is going to commit to him, there’s still plenty for Jenkins to prove in 2023.