Camp Notes: Jenkins Absent, Patrick Hurt, Fields Coming Along, Rookies Impress

The Bears’ offensive line was the talk of Day 2 of practices. Teven Jenkins was a no-show. Lucas Patrick left the field with an injury, and head coach Matt Eberflus continues to tinker with different blocker combinations. Here are your training camp bullets for Friday morning.

  • Jenkins missed practice Thursday, but Eberflus didn’t have much to say. That’s his standard operating procedure for injured players. Jenkins missed most of last season after having back surgery, and Matt Nagy bewilderedly returned him to the lineup once the games were meaningless. Jenkins played six games and really struggled, though he did not allow a sack.
  • That said, the Bears have been a little evasive when it comes to Jenkins’ role with the team since March. Initially, GM Ryan Poles was noncommittal when asked if Jones would play left or right tackle. Once summer practices started, rookie Braxton Jones ran with the ones while Jenkins worked with the second unit. Yesterday, Eberflus mentioned Jenkins could be a swing tackle. His role is being continually diminished and it’s starting to look like Jenkins might not be in the team’s plans.
  • The acquisition of tackle Riley Reiff in free agency probably didn’t sit well with Jenkins, though he has yet to say anything publicly. Reiff, Jones, and Larry Borom all slot above Jenkins on Chicago’s depth chart. Sam Mustipher and Doug Kramer are locked in a battle to back up Patrick at center. Michael Schofield is listed as the Bears’ starting right guard, and Cody Whitehair will start on the opposite side. That leaves Jenkins, Ja’Tyre Carter, and Lachavious Simmons fighting to be Chicago’s eighth lineman.
  • Could Jenkins move to guard? Probably not. If Eberflus believed that was a possibility, Jenkins would be getting his fair share of reps.
  • Reiff could be the leader the offensive line has been missing. His pedigree demands respect, and he is one of the more field-intelligent players the Bears have.

  • Speaking of Patrick, he left practice today with an apparent thumb injury.
  • In Patrick’s absence, Kramer took the snaps as the first-team center. Borom worked as the starting right tackle, and Jones rotated with Reiff at left tackle. At right guard, Eberflus rotated Carter and Mustipher. For some reps, there were three rookies and a second-year pro protecting Justin Fields.
  • Poles wants his rookies to take jobs away from the veterans. “It’s human nature to relax when you feel there’s no threat to your job, so I want these young guys to come in and compete for jobs, the first-year GM said last week. “That’s going to lift everyone in that entire room to know that they’ve got to compete and be their best self to make the team, as well as to make the starting line.”
  • Eberflus will continue to tinker with his line until he finds the best combination.
  • Patrick is a big part of Chicago’s offense. He’ll serve as the onfield bodyguard of Fields. The two addressed the media on Tuesday to talk about their roles and synergy.
  • Fields is making strides in Luke Getsy’s offense, but the new offensive coordinator said his quarterback “still has a long way to go.” 
  • Getsy pointed to some execution issues Thursday that he wants to see eliminated, including false starts. “It’s the lack of execution that I’m focused on right now. That’s what pisses me off more than anything.”
  • Kyler Gordon missed some of OTAs and all of the minicamps with an undisclosed injury but has been working with the starters — sometimes as the slot cornerback, with Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor on the outside, and sometimes opposite Johnson while veteran Tavon Young handles the slot.

  • Bears coaches approached Gordon and let him know they were going to work him in at nickel cornerback. The rookie was ecstatic. “It’s definitely like the quarterback of the defense. You’ve got to know the calls, be able to communicate, be loud, efficient, fast and smart and be able to react fast.”
  • Cole Kmet made an amazing catch — a back-shoulder ball from Fields down the seam — in seven-on-seven drills. The tight end drew cheers earlier in practice from nearby fans for a catch against safety Eddie Jackson in one-on-ones. Kmet would have dropped both passes last year.
  • Jackson is approaching this season with a different mindset. The defensive back is eliminating personal goals to focus more on winning football games.
  • Taking on a bigger leadership role wasn’t something Jackson had in mind earlier this year. But as the offseason went on, and the changes throughout the organization mounted, Jackson realized he needed to step up.
  • Eberflus said back in April that he was giving Jackson “a clean slate” and the sixth-year veteran is out to prove his two Pro-Bowl selections (2018-19) were no fluke.

Five Things

  1. Everyone is raving about Kmet, but it was really Darnell Mooney who made the catch of the day. The pass by Fields was pretty nifty, too. I love the speed with which the pair executed the play.
  2. Fields said on the Bears All Access show that he feels lighter and that he lost 2% body fat in the offseason. That means he’ll be stronger and quicker this season. He also said his two goals are to beat the Packers and win the Super Bowl. Getsy is making sure Fields is mentally prepared, and that he is as much a quarterback as he is an athlete. The offensive coordinator wants his second-year starter to play to his strengths but in a controlled way. No one is saying Fields can’t be a mobile rocket launcher in 2022-23 as long as he does it within the framework of the offense. This will be a breakout season for Fields.
  3. Eberflus introduced a new wrinkle Thursday, injecting certain situations in the middle of team drills to surprise and challenge his players. That technique is more prominent in high school and college practices. The first-year head coach is great at keeping his players attentive and reactionary. His goal is to prepare his offense and defense for anything out of the ordinary that could turn into a big play against the Bears when the games count. I’ve been unsure what to make of Eberflus’ passive-aggressive demeanor, but he keeps the players on their toes and aware of every detail. That can’t be bad.
  4. Though they were Day 3 picks, Jones and Dominique Robinson have as much upside as the top two selections, Gordon and Jaquan Brisker. On one-on-one pass-rushing drills, Jones stopped Al-Quadin Muhammed almost immediately in his tracks, earning acknowledgment from his older teammates. Robinson also looked explosive on one snap, blowing past offensive tackle Shon Coleman. Robinson, who turned 24 last month, made The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman’s Freak’s List for 2021. Per Feldman, “He’s grown to over 6-4, 256 pounds, has an 82.5-inch wingspan, bench presses 350; vertical jumped 34 inches and clocked a 4.62 40. His 4.31 pro agility time also is excellent.” I don’t think the Bears will trade Robert Quinn midseason, but if they do, the rookie edge rusher should be fully prepared to step up.
  5. Quinn appeared to be an observer for most drills. It led to more snaps for Robinson and Trevis Gipson with the starters and against the Bears’ first-team offense. It’s only Day 2, but the three will make for one helluva rotation. That’s a fantastic combination of youth and experience.

Camp Quotes

  • “Just getting the experience and those reps. The cool part about it is in a couple more days [on Monday] we get to put pads on, and this thing gets to be real. These helmet practices are great because you get timing and rhythm and stuff like that, but this game is a feel game, and the only way you get the real feel is if it’s the real thing. So these reps that will be coming down the road here will be super important for [Justin].” – Getsy.
  • “[Fields] has come so far from where we started, for sure. “We still have a long way to go, though. As far as  attacking the system and the knowledge of the system and what’s going on around him, I think he’s done a great job of that — that part of it.”– Getsy
  • “You just get to be more like the run game, just a different job. I feel like me at nickel, I’m just a twitchy dude, so I just like to react a bunch. I just enjoy it and [am] able to be in the run fit, too. Just a lot of different things I can do there to really show all of my abilities. I enjoy nickel.” – Gordon
  • “I just want to be better than I was last year. That’s it. Be a better leader. Go out there and make plays and win. … I know I’m a vet now, one of the oldest guys in the room, so a lot of the young guys look up to me. I have to lead from the front. That’s how I prepare, how I work, how I’m in meetings, how I walk around the building, and how I attack the weight room. All of that type of stuff. I feel like everything else will fall in line.” – Jackson
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