The Bears go to Seattle Thursday night with all eyes on a player who hasn't been on the field with starters in preseason yet and doesn't touch the football.
Chosen in Round 2 of the 2021 draft after they traded up, Teven Jenkins has had anything but a run-of-the-mill start to his career and now he seems to have a chance at starting only a few weeks after he seemed on a downward spiral.
Jenkins has gone from rookie back surgery to playing poorly without the benefit of training camp and practices last year, to being demoted to backup tackle at this camp, suffering a mystery injury, being the subject of trade rumors and talk that he didn't get along with coaches, to suddenly being reborn as a right guard.
"Well, it’s good to have him back, you know what I mean, No. 1," line coach Chris Morgan said. "And he’s been doing everything we’ve asked, and we’re going to always try to find our five best offensive linemen. We’re always going to try to put our five best players on the field.
"We’re going to take a look at that. We’re excited about it, and we’ll see where we go."
So does Jenkins ascend at guard?
"Teven's smart, he's very smart, very athletic player," coach Matt Eberflus said. 'And like one of my mentors said this and I believe this and he engrained into my mind, is that you never put a ceiling on a player. So you'll always have to watch out that as a coach you don't put a ceiling on him. Let him grow. Let him do his thing because some people mature and grow at different times. And all of a sudden, they just grow into a player, they grow into a really good NFL player.
"And that's for any position. We're never going to put ceilings on guys. We're always going to think the best for every player. The sky's the limit for you, and we're coaching every single player on the roster that way."
Jenkins isn't the only player to watch in Thursday's game for the Bears offense but he'll no doubt be the most interesting.
Here are three players to watch on offense for the Bears in the second preseason game as the Bears try to build on last week's preseason win over Kansas City.
1. G Teven Jenkins
The Bears had signed veterans Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield to start training camp and it seemed to seal Jenkins' fate. He'd be a backup or even traded. He was even taking snaps with the third team when he returned from an injury that never has been explained.
A few practice snaps at guard at the end of practice week prior to last week's game, and now work in two practices at right guard have built anticipation he could still win a starting spot but at a new position.
Schofield could have locked up his starting spot with a good effort against the Chiefs but he had a few plays when plays broke down due to his play. One was a sack of Justin Fields by Chris Jones. Meanwhile, Jenkins did play at right tackle in the game and displayed the same type of effort, hustle and physical dominance on running plays he had always shown when tried at left tackle. The Bears have seemed to settle on Braxton Jones as the starting left tackle, but it's possible they'll have Jenkins at right guard starting next to right tackle Reiff.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said Jenkins fits as a guard because he is a smart player and that's an asset at the position in this offense, and his line coach agreed.
"He's big and strong and things happen quicker, there are more moving pieces sometimes on the inside," Morgan said. "Luke talked about the mental stress on guards in this system and he's got a opp and we're excited to see, get a look at it and see what everything looks like.
"We're going to play the best five guys, whatever combination that is. He definitely has those attirbutes."
There was no announcement saying Jenkins will start Thursday but he did line up with starters at right guard during Tuesday's practice. Starters had the bulk of the work that day because they are only expected to play briefly, 10 plays or less. But it's safe to expect Jenkins will play well into the game if he does start because coaches need to see if he can handle this new position where blocking angles are different and everything happens faster because he's closer to the ball.
Morgan seemed to put more pressure on Schofield with his comment on what he wants to see from their veteran guard acquisition.
"I just think you want to see him improve," Morgan said. "You want to see him jell with the guys around him. You want to see him pick up the differences in our scheme, our terminology and apply them. That's pretty much it."
Those seem very basic accomplishments. If Schofield hasn't gone that far yet, it wouldn't be a stretch to assume Jenkins really could have an opportunity to start at the position.
2. RB Khalil Herbert
Rookie challenger Trestan Ebner made a major statement about his ability to run routes and catch passes, and also run hard and through tackles better than was anticipated. A player like this could even challenge Herbert for time as the second gack. So will Herbert respond. He needs to because last week he had a couple of dropped passes and then spent extra time on the practice field taking throws from the JUGS machine as he worked on his hands. Herbert had a good rookie year but as every knows, in the NFL it's what have you done for me lately?
3. WR Velus Jones Jr.
Will he play or won't he? he rookie was back at practice following an unspecified injury that cost him a couple weeks of practice.
"You'll have to take that up with coach," Jones said when asked this week. "I'm just, you know, making sure that I'm good, that I'm staying on top of everything, my playbook, and so whenever my opportunity comes, it will."
However, Jones said he is tired of taking "mental reps," which is just watching a play and knowing what his role would be on it.
He wasn't revealing whether he will play in the game and neither will the Bears, but they would like to see what he can do in this offense against opponents. However, because his speed is so much a part of his game it would not be surprising if they decide to give him one more week of rest before looking at him extensively in the final preseason game. There are other receivers they'll want to see something from this week, like Dante Pettis and Tajae Sharpe. Both showed signs of being able to take on more in the offense last week. Still, it's Jones who so much is expected from due to his strength/size/speed combination.