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Jenkins determined to seize opportunity at new position

Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins
Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins

Had Teven Jenkins been told two weeks ago that he'd enter the preseason finale with a legitimate chance to win the starting right guard job, he no doubt would have been both happy and surprised.

The second-year offensive lineman has experienced a wild ride this summer. He missed seven practices early in training camp with an undisclosed injury, was the subject of trade rumors and then lined up as the third-team right tackle upon returning to action.

Things changed for the better for Jenkins a week and a half ago when he was moved to right guard. He practiced with the second team offense last Monday, moved to the first team Tuesday and then started the Bears' preseason game in Seattle at his new position last Thursday night.

Jenkins has remained at right guard and is expected to start there again in Saturday night's preseason finale in Cleveland. 

"It's been like a rollercoaster and a mix of emotions for me," Jenkins said. "Going from right tackle 3 to go to second right guard and I'm starting now, it's a lot about seizing opportunity. That's one thing I'm looking forward to doing this weekend."

In Seattle, Jenkins played guard in a game for the first time since his redshirt freshman season at Oklahoma State in 2017. Coach Matt Eberflus told reporters that he felt the 6-6, 321-pounder had a solid game against the Seahawks—especially after moving to right guard only three days earlier—but added that "he's got to continue to grow at the position."

Another strong performance against the Browns seemingly would help Jenkins secure the starting right guard job heading into the season opener Sept. 11 against the 49ers. But Eberflus cautioned Thursday that the competition up front remains open. 

"We're still in that evaluation mode with the offensive line," Eberflus said. "We're still looking at a lot of guys. We're still looking at the combinations. I know we're kind of solidified as of late, the recent one that's been out there. But this thing is still open. So everybody's got to put their best foot forward. They've got to perform this Saturday. They've got to get it done on the field."

The Bears were back on the fields at Halas Hall Wednesday as they continue to prepare for Saturday's preseason finale against the Browns in Cleveland.

Jenkins feels that he's well-suited to play right guard because of his physicality. He recently likened the position to playing in a phone booth.

"It's like you have a dude right there, right now instead of all this space," Jenkins said. "At tackle, you have a lot of time to think about what's going to happen and a lot of space to do whatever technique you're thinking about, and at guard it's happening a lot quicker, like really fast."

After practicing at right guard Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Jenkins feels more comfortable at his new position than he did last week.

"A lot more comfortable than when I started because I actually had more reps under my belt and I'm starting to learn all the tendencies, all the consistency I need to have to be a guard instead of a tackle," he said.

Jenkins' teammates have been impressed with how well he's adapted.

"He's been great," quarterback Justin Fields said following the Bears' 27-11 win over the Seahawks. "I think he's been adjusting well. He works hard at it. I'm excited to see him kind of switch positions and see how this right guard position works out for him."

"He's improving every day," center Sam Mustipher added this week, "getting used to it, understanding that the fight is going to start way faster than it does at tackle. It's been cool to work alongside him. In terms of physical gifts, Teven is as gifted as anybody that I have been around. It's cool to be able to play next to a guy like that."