Teven Jenkins is a prime example of why it is vital to not give up on talented players before they have enough time to prove themselves. Before the season began, it looked like the second-year lineman might not even be on the roster this year. He seemingly did not see eye-to-eye with the new coaching staff during training camp and was the subject of trade conversations in the offseason. In the end, the team could not find a trade partner, and they are surely happy that is the case, as the 24-year-old has enjoyed a breakout season and has already blossomed into their best offensive lineman.
The coaching staff’s decision to move Jenkins to the interior was originally seen as nothing more than a last-ditch effort to salvage the former second-round pick’s career, but it has become one of their best decisions to date. Jenkins looked like a completely different player since the switch, and he locked down the starting right guard spot after a strong showing in the preseason. However, that was only the beginning for the Oklahoma State product, as he has continued to outperform expectations and has held his own against some of the league’s best defenders.
Jenkins’ ability to move defenders in the running game was well-documented at college station, and he has displayed a similar knack for mauling defenders in the pros. He has regularly opened up massive lanes for the Bears’ backs to run through and has earned a Pro Football Focus (PFF) run-blocking grade of 81.3, which ranks third in the league. Additionally, he has also graded as the fourth highest-rated guard despite this being his first year playing the position.
While Jenkins has already earned a reputation as one of the nastiest run blockers in the league, he has been equally impressive in the passing game. He has only allowed two sacks and has been a stabilizing force on the interior of an otherwise lackluster line. Likewise, he has routinely punished opposing defensive linemen who attempt to leap to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage, which is another testament to his deep-rooted mean streak.
The Pro Bowl fan voting concluded last week, and Jenkins was unfortunately not in the top 10 for the guard position. The fact that he has flown under the radar as a relatively unknown presence on a losing football team is not exactly surprising, as name recognition is vital in Pro Bowl voting. There are simply too many well-known players who have been playing at a high level for a long time, and Jenkins became overlooked as a result. With that said, everyone who has been paying attention is aware that he has been playing at a Pro Bowl level, and he seems destined to be one of the more egregious snubs for the contest in the league.
Ryan Pace made his fair share of mistakes during his six years as the General Manager of the Bears, but his final draft was certainly not one of them. The team was lauded for their decision to trade up for Justin Fields and Jenkins (who inexplicably fell to the second round due to a lingering back injury) with their first two selections, and those moves look even better a year and a half later. He also found a late-round gem in running back Khalil Herbert, whom the team selected in the sixth round. All things considered, the class was a parting gift of epic proportions.
Jenkins’ success becomes even more impressive when you consider that he is still relatively raw playing the guard position, and he should only get better as he continues to gain experience playing on the interior. He might not make the Pro Bowl this year, but it is only a matter of time before he achieves the honor, as he has all the tools to be one of the league’s best guards.