The Great Unknown Holding Up Bears Offense

After an offseason of change, there is only one position on offense where Bears coaches can have uncertainty about performance and it's a vital spot.

Bears coaches have confidence in Andy Dalton because of his experience within the league, know what to expect from tight end Jimmy Graham for the same reason, and have witnessed themselves how running back David Montgomery and wide receivers Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson both impact their offense.

The one real question in terms of production they have heading into the start of training camp on offense is the one thing which makes it all work, and that's the blocking.

Specifically, they have to be focused on whether rookie Teven Jenkins can handle the task of starting at left tackle because he played there only a part of his college career and hasn't faced NFL pass rushers. 

Jenkins is the only real unknown element with this offense.

To a minor extent, they have to be looking closely at how James Daniels transitions to playing right guard, but he was supposed to be one of their better blockers, and while it is a new position for him there is only a change of sides and not positions.

What coaches saw in minicamp, OTAs and rookie camp from Jenkins can only indicate his ability to pick up the play book, and not how he rates physically against defensive linemen and edge rushers within the scheme.

"Again, it's hard because there are no pads so what we are telling the defense is you have to take three hard steps and then you have to pull up, there is no bull-rushing, you can’t lower your head," Bears coach Matt Nagy explained about how the line works in the offseason. "So it's not really real but they can at least get the burst and we can work their feet.

"Teven is doing a really good job of trying to get down the fundamentals of what coach Juan (Castillo) teaches and put it together and when we get to training camp and the pads come on and we start doing one-on-ones you can really truly see where these guys are at."

Jenkins saw progress learning the blocking schemes, but there is no substitute for repetitions as he tries to fit into a cohesive group.

"I'm actually very excited to put on pads," Jenkins said. "It's been however many months for me. I've ben missing that sounds, missing that feeling, and I'm very excited to get back out there."

The Jets signed free agent Morgan Moses and he was the best available option. So keeping Jenkins healthy and blocking with the first team when training camp opens is an imperative.

"Offensive line is a unique position in that five guys need to be on the same page on every single snap," center Sam Mustipher said. "So, (it's) any five who get the opportunity to work together as a unit and just grow that cohesion."

Jenkins thinks he gained sufficient understanding of how Castillo wants his position played at training camp after practicing one of the three weeks of on-field work with the first team due to Germain Ifedi's undisclosed injury.

"Right now for me to get my feet wet, I'm trying my best to understand the pace of the game as we're going against the defense and understanding how fast the changes from college to the NFL, of course," he said. "For me, it's all about getting in with Coach Castillo and keep on working on my sets, working on my left and keep working on that til I'm getting more fluid and getting comfortable in my stance."

Jenkins made a big move in his final year at Oklahoma State after he discovered the key for how to improve.

"As I self-critiqued it, it was my understanding of how to use and when to use controlled aggression, understanding the game and not being afraid to make any mistakes," Jenkins said.

It's true the Bears offensive line stepped it up in the second half of the season after personnel changes but it's also true those games came largely against weaker opponents. Still, it was NFL competition and they averaged more than 80 yards more per game against those teams with a revised offensive line over the final six games.

The one change added to the line is Jenkins and they need him to quickly assimilate.

When camp starts, the Bears need to see Jenkins' controlled aggression at work because he is possibly the only complete uncertainty left when assessing how their offense can grow.

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