Camp Notes: Jenkins Moves to Guard, Gordon Returns to Washington, First Team Offensive Line Continues To Struggle
After a 19-14 victory over the Chiefs on Saturday, the Bears return to Halas Hall for camp today with a lot of changes. Some players, including Teven Jenkins, are trying new positions. Several players are also returning from injury, and head coach Matt Eberflus is moving players up and down the depth chart. On top of that, the offensive line is still struggling, and Kyler Gordon is returning to Washington. Here are your Tuesday morning Camp Notes.
- Gordon, Velus Jones, David Montgomery, Cole Kmet, Kindle Vildor, and Riley Reiff were among the key players to return to practice today. Though most didn’t run with the ones right away, or at all, it’s encouraging. With just a few practices before the Bears head to Seattle to face off against the Seahawks on Thursday, Chicago needs to get as many players back as possible.
- Gordon returns to Washington on Thursday. He played college ball with Washington and went to Archbishop Murphy High School. Gordon spoke about his confidence for being ready to play. He sounds excited to get back.“They’re all just ready for me to be at the game,” Gordon said. “I have a lot of people that are going to be there. I’m excited to go back.”
- He should have quite the welcoming committee as well. How many will be there exactly? “I have no idea,” said Gordon. “I’m not going to lie. Probably a good amount.”
- Then he continued to speak about how special it is to debut in Seattle. “I think it was meant to be,” he said. “It’s God’s plan. I’m just excited. I think it’s just a cool thing to be able to say it happened in my life. I’m just excited, really.”
- Before mixing in at nickel, Gordon was with the second team defense while Lamar Jackson and a returning Duke Shelley ran with the ones. However, Jackson wasn’t the only one to see a promotion (though I think he should be a cut candidate). Dieter Eiselen is working with the second team at center while Doug Kramer was missing from practice.
- Nsimba Webster and Dazz Newsome saw snaps with the ones on offense while Dominique Robinson got to mix in opposite Robert Quinn. After big performances against the Chiefs, Jack Sanborn and Trevon Coley were promoted to the second-string unit.
- Tevin Jenkins took snaps exclusively at right guard with the twos. This isn’t surprising. Michael Schofield had a really rough day Saturday. Schofield came to Chicago with high expectations and it’s disappointing to not see him in good form yet. Along with Jenkins’s shift, Zach Thomas moved to center with the third unit.
- Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy are still trying to figure out this offensive line. The starters struggled a lot in the Kansas City game and as a result Justin Fields got sacked twice. In fact, the first stringers seemed outmaneuvered and outclassed. In Monday’s practice, they gave up what would have been four easy sacks, two apiece allowed by each tackle. Despite all of his upside, Braxton Jones continues to let Quinn get easy wins. There were also a few occasions when players went unblocked entirely.
- The heat may have Fields feeling a little itchy in the pocket as Getsy spoke to the second sack of the day. “He vacated too quickly,” Getsy said. “He skipped number two in the progression. He kind of went left, right, and they took away number one. That was a great job by him of getting back. [But] I think he got out of there a little too quick. That was the one play, honestly, that I wish we had back for him… I love the decision to slide, obviously, but he had a chance to maybe hang in there just a tick longer.”
- Getsy will call plays from the sideline. He confirmed in today’s press conference that after moving to the sideline in 2016 as the Packers’ wide receivers coach, he found it made a difference, so he plans to stay there. He values the ability to have a conversation with anybody and everybody, and there’s a comfortability and a feel to it.
- Getsy threw some creativity into practice Monday. There was a reverse that led to a big gain from Webster and a flat route from Khari Blasingame that led to a touchdown in the red zone.
- Fields and Darnell Mooney connected on a couple of well-timed passes in the red zone. Their chemistry continues to shine through. Kmet also continued to link with Fields as he caught a great ball on a broken play. The trio should have a huge season.
- The NFL released the bottom 50 of its Top 100 active players. The Bears were represented twice by fan favorites Roquan Smith (84) and Montgomery (98).
- Smith is being labeled a top guy in the NFL by his peers.
- It’s time that the Bears front office and Smith let go of some selfish views to get a deal done. Truth be told it’s been a sloppy negotiation process from both sides.
- Mooney and Fields are going to be the stars of this offense. The pair put in a great deal of work together, stay late, and consistently look good in practice (and now game time). Additionally, Fields seems to know where Mooney is at all times. The wide receiver will also become a security net for the second-year quarterback as the team’s number one wideout. That kind of trust and chemistry leads to tight window throws like the ones at Halas Hall on Monday. Fields knows how Mooney will react, knows his capabilities, and knows he can make certain things work. The big question, then, is whether or not Kmet or someone else like Equanimeous St. Brown can step up to make sure Mooney isn’t constantly double-teamed. Offenses will obviously look to shut Mooney down first.
- The offensive line may not give Fields and Mooney enough time to showcase their chemistry. Cody Whitehair was the only lineman on the Bears roster that didn’t seem to make any big mistakes. Jones is a rookie playing the toughest position on offense and will need to make bigger strides. The coaches see a lot of potential but might it be too soon to throw him into the fire? Reiff and Schofield need to get healthier and shake loose some of the rust. Hopefully, an early regular season return from Lucas Patrick can help things out. Kramer seemed to get beat up, and Sam Mustipher continues to struggle. Perhaps Jenkins can step up and solidify part of this offensive line.
- Moving Jenkins to guard is a sign that this new leadership regime does in fact want to work with him. Getsy said last week that Jenkins should focus on a starting tackle position and that moving him to guard was a conversation, if necessary at all, not worth having for a couple of weeks. In fact, no one could be sure if a starting position was actually a true opportunity. There were even trade rumors involving the second-year tackle. The position change is an admission that the team needs help at the right guard, and Schofield may not be the answer. It also reaffirms that they truly do believe in the young man’s talent. Eberflus and Getsy want to get looks early and often, so Jenkins didn’t take a single snap at tackle Monday. The move should help to keep Jenkins in Chicago, and hopefully help this stabilize the offensive line.
- Getsy will have a playbook and game plan that should succeed. The offensive coordinator doesn’t lack creativity and doesn’t let ego deny players an opportunity to flash their strengths. The only question, therefore, is whether or not the Bears have enough talent, and enough time, to make it work. Fields had plenty to work on through the offseason and camp, and he’s making strides, leading by example, and can hopefully make a big leap this year. There’s still some time until the navy and orange storm into Soldier Field for a week one matchup against second-year quarterback Trey Lance. Will the Bears be ready?
- After 23 players were unable to participate in the preseason opener, it will be interesting to see what kind of snap count the starters and reserves get on Thursday in Seattle. The Bears need to cut at least five players Tuesday. It will be interesting to see who doesn’t make the cut, despite talent, because of a lack of snaps. Fans usually see a longer series from the starters in the second preseason game. But being only five days removed from the Chiefs game, and only a few short weeks until the regular season begins, Eberflus and Getsy may decide to take a more cautious approach.
- “It was cool just being out in Soldier Field seeing another opponent. We’ve been going against each other for so long. That was my first NFL game I’ve ever been to.” – Velus Jones
- “I thought we were pretty sharp. I think that was one of the things we talked about, just making sure we had a sound procedure. Got guys in and out of the huddle, limited pre-snap penalties and mistakes, and I think for the most part, did a good job of that.” – Trevor Siemian
- “Then I think the more [Fields] plays this year, the better he’s going to get that feeling. Pocket presence is not an easy thing to teach. But he’s got the toughness and the guts to do it. When you’re evaluating quarterbacks, that’s one of the first things I’m looking for; somebody to have that willingness to stand in there, make your throw with your feet in the ground and get smacked in the jaw. He definitely has that.” – Getsy
- “I was just itching to go and be out there. It just looks so fun honestly. I just wish I was playing right now. Just waiting to go out there… Damn bro, I’m here. It’s time. I’m ready to do this stuff. It’s exciting.” – Gordon