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Jenkins 'feeling more comfortable at left guard'

Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins
Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins

Since the end of last season,, the Bears offensive line has retained three starters–Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins and Cody Whitehair–and added Darnell Wright via the No. 10 pick in the draft as well as Nate Davis via free agency.

Still, the on-field product looks brand new as Jones is the only member of the trio to return to the same position he played last season, as Whitehair moved back to center and Jenkins has switched to left guard. While Jenkins has now endured two position changes–moving from right tackle to right guard a year ago–he feels his progress is "a lot further" along than he originally anticipated.

"It's going good, actually," Jenkins said of the move to left guard. "I'm feeling more comfortable there. My pass pro's coming along. The only thing I need to fix with that right now is being able to move my right leg with me, underneath me so I can get out and protect my edge more so I don't get edged and cause Justin to get pressured fast. I know what I need to do. It's just how fast can I do it right now."

Prior to last year, Jenkins hadn't played the guard position since his redshirt freshman year at Oklahoma State, as his next four collegiate seasons were spent flipping between right and left tackle. But after a strong 2022 season at right guard, coach Matt Eberflus and the Bears coaching staff felt comfortable with Jenkins' transition to left guard for 2023. 

"You look for the good in people," Eberflus said. "You're really trying to stretch them physically and mentally and then find the position that fits them best. We were fortunate enough to be able to move him in to guard. He actually shined there and did a nice job for some of the year last year. He still has a lot of growth to do. He still has a lot of learning to do in the position. But he's continued to do that."

Jenkins' first two NFL seasons were affected by various back and neck injuries, causing him to miss the first 12 weeks of his rookie year and three games in 2022. While the start of his career didn't feel like it was going according to plan, Jenkins now sees himself in a good spot and is pleased with how he's accepted different challenges rather than run away from them. 

While the Kansas native doesn't let his past injuries affect how he approaches practices or games, he's taken the time to learn more about the "small muscles around my spine" and how he can strengthen those to stay healthy and improve his production. 

"My pilates instructor, she educated me on that with the mind-body connection that we went through," Jenkins said. "Just being able to understand why you can't do certain movements right now because those muscles are weak and some are strong. Like big muscles – you have three muscles on your core. Six-pack, V, whatever. Then the smaller muscles get neglected because most people want to have a six-pack, get shredded, all that. They want to work the big muscles, not the small ones that actually keep your core strong."

Check out Tuesday's action from the fields at Halas Hall during the Bears' first padded practice of the 2023 season, which featured notable appearances by former head coach Dave Wannstedt and personal trainer Tim Grover.

Since working on those smaller muscles, Jenkins has noticed a difference in his ability to engage his core. He believes those changes can help in certain on-field situations, such as when a defensive lineman "is trying to shed you off or throw you off," and the muscle reacts naturally so "you can just move yourself back into position."

As a third-year pro, Jenkins is not only focused on his personal growth, but the development of the entire offensive line. The Bears conducted their first padded practice of training camp Tuesday which allowed the unit to turn up the intensity. Jenkins said the group "did pretty good," but still has "a lot of things to clean up."

Being in a position to help the young offensive linemen in this year's camp is something Jenkins is embracing. In an exclusive interview with ChicagoBears.com prior to training camp, Jenkins discussed how he's now able to share his experiences with new teammates and tell them "what I wish I would've done when I was coming in." His biggest piece of advice: "Don't be afraid to make mistakes."

"I was so timid coming in here, because it's a whole new place, whole new area, you don't know know what you're going into," Jenkins said. "Being able to actually go out, make connections, talk to people, because hopefully everybody has a long career and when you do, you never know what team you're gonna end up on 10 years down the road. You start [seeing], 'oh this is Mike from the Bears,' when you're on Tennessee. It's little things like that.

"Also being able to teach them how to remember plays or go along the lines with certain nuances like if the d-lineman slants this way, that means the blitz is coming this way. Start looking at the bigger picture of cover 2, DBs dropping back, DBs pressed, just whole different things that go into thinking about defenses than you would at college."

While part of that veteran leadership includes helping Wright acclimate to the NFL, Jenkins has been particularly impressed with the rookie's maturity on the field early into training camp.

Jenkins noted that the Tennessee product is further along than he was as a rookie, citing Wright's strength and athleticism as key differences.

"The way he recovers out of bad positions, I would literally say that's phenomenal the way he does it," Jenkins said. "It's just mind-blowing. I haven't seen, in all my years of playing, the way he's able to get into football positions out of being all out of sorts somehow and then sitting down on the bullrush and stopping the dude before he gets to Justin. It's actually very good how he does stuff."

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