Teven Jenkins is still not practicing for the Bears as he nurses a lower back injury that’s kept him from getting valuable reps in training camp for nearly a week. Matt Nagy reiterated that Jenkins is getting incrementally better everyday. However, his return keeps getting pushed back further and further. Initially, Nagy reportedly hoped to get Jenkins back in time for the team’s first padded practice on Tuesday. But on Tuesday when it became clear Jenkins’ return was not in the cards, Nagy said he hopes the rookie tackle will be back sometime between a few days and a few weeks, but that a true timeline is hard to pin down.
“Honestly I don’t know,” Nagy said. “All I can say is I feel like the arrow is—Every day it’s getting a little bit, better. It’s not going the other way.”
Meanwhile the team has gotten thinner and thinner on the edges of their O-Line in the early stages of camp. Incumbent starting right tackle Germain Ifedi remains on the PUP with a hip flexor injury, and Elijah Wilkinson missed practice on Tuesday for an unspecified reason as well.
“Teven and Larry and then obviously Elijah, that’s where we’re at right now,” Nagy said. “But I do know that Ryan and those guys are always looking to see who’s out there. That’s a normal deal when you have a position at left tackle, which for us is a focus, to make sure that we get it right we’ve gotta be able to see these reps. We’ve gotta see the guys out there.”
Those injuries and absences are concerning, but they have also afforded opportunities to players who may not have gotten serious looks with the 1s otherwise. In particular, Lachavious Simmons and Larry Borom.
“I don't know if (Borom) can play left tackle,” Nagy said. “That's why we're trying to put him there, to see. It's not easy when you go from the right side to the left side but I think now is the time to see, really, what he can do.
“It would be pretty cool to see that you find out, you draft a guy in the fifth round and then you end up having a guy that can do some big things for us, so we're going to test him out.”
Borom did get plenty of reps with the starting unit on Tuesday, and was thrown into the fire by going 1-on-1 with Khalil Mack at times. He had some miscues, like a false start, but for the most part he held his own. That’s encouraging, but Borom is likely not the Bears’ No. 1 choice at the position.
“It’s definitely something we need to focus on and make sure we get right,” Nagy said. “I mean, that left tackle spot is real.”
As of Monday, Nagy wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Jenkins returning to camp and being ready to play Week 1. The Bears don’t have a deadline for when the team needs to shelve Jenkins and hand the job off to someone else.
“I think we still have plenty of time,” Nagy said on Monday.
Once Jenkins is cleared for practice, the Bears’ problems at the position won’t magically be solved. They’ll still have to balance getting Jenkins up to full-speed with making sure he doesn’t aggravate his back.
“It won’t be a real long (ramp up to full practice), because we want to get him going, but we wanna be smart with it, which is kinda what we’re doing right now,” Nagy said. “The sooner the better for us. We know every rep counts. He’s a rookie. He hasn’t been out there yet.”
Regardless of his health, they still need to determine whether or not Jenkins is ready to play left tackle at the NFL level, too.
Heading into this season, the offensive line was one of the biggest question marks for the team. Unfortunately for the Bears, those questions have only multiplied after the first week of camp.