LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- With the season opener against the Green Bay Packers just 19 days away, the Bears' offensive line is in a massive state of flux.
On Tuesday, head coach Matt Eberflus confirmed that left guard Teven Jenkins suffered an injury and is deemed "week-to-week." That designation is significant considering that the Bears have deemed players like Jaquan Brisker, Chase Claypool, and DeMarcus Walker, who have missed multiple weeks of practice, "day-to-day."
But Jenkins' injury is just the tip of the offensive line iceberg for a Bears team hoping to hit the ground running when the season begins.
Veteran offensive lineman Cody Whitehair left last Thursday's practice against the Indianapolis Colts with a right-hand injury. Whitehair practiced with a wrap on his right hand Wednesday and has been moved over to left guard to fill Jenkins' spot.
"We know what he can do at guard. That's his position. He was playing there today," Eberflus said after Tuesday's practice. "We like where he is. His hand is not a big issue, but we'll see where it goes. He's a day-to-day guy in terms of that. We hope it heals fast and all those types of things, and we'll see where it goes. We certainly like him at center, and we like him at guard. It's good to have the combination and the flexibility to do both."
With Whitehair now back at left guard, the Bears hope to have Lucas Patrick slot in as the first-team center. However, Patrick missed two weeks of practice and just returned Monday. He was limited in practice Tuesday. Eberflus said Patrick is "ramping up" to a full return.
Speaking of "ramping up," right guard Nate Davis, who missed the first two weeks of padded practice, continues to work his way back at practice.
The Bears' offensive line appeared to take another blow during Tuesday's practice when rookie right tackle Darnell Wright sustained an apparent ankle/foot injury late in team drills. He limped to the sideline and did not return.
"I have not got clarity on that yet, I don't know exactly what that is," Eberflus said Tuesday about Wright's injury. "We'll see, we'll see what it is after here."
That leaves left tackle Braxton Jones as the only fully-healthy member of the Bears' planned starting five.
Given how things have shaken out during training camp, Larry Borom would be first up at right tackle if Wright is unavailable, while Alex Leatherwood would likely get the first look at left guard if Whitehair's hand becomes an issue. Doug Kramer is the Bears' backup center behind Patrick, and Ja'Tyre Carter has received a lot of first-team reps at right guard when Davis was out.
The Bears feel comfortable with that pecking order at those positions currently. They will have first waiver priority after final cuts are made around the NFL next week and could make an addition then if needed.
The murky and worrisome state of the offensive line could put an offense still trying to find its rhythm behind the eightball.
Following joint practices last week, Eberflus admitted the offense has "A to Z" issues with execution, attention to detail, and playing with speed.
The Bears were happy with the large amount of work the offense got in during joint practices and elected not to play the starters during Saturday's preseason loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
That's an acceptable decision, but an offense that has been choppy during camp needs live game reps to figure things out. Those reps will likely come in Saturday's preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills. Last preseason, quarterback Justin Fields and the offense played the first half in the finale against the Cleveland Browns. It's fair to anticipate a similar workload Saturday.
However, Eberflus admitted that the state of the offensive line could play a role in whether or not Fields plays vs. the Bills.
"That will be looked at. There's no question that will be looked at," Eberflus said. "You've always gotta look at the combinations and the health of the offensive linemen when you're talking about the quarterback. That will all be looked at, and we'll see where it is."
The Bears feel confident that Patrick and Davis will be ready to go in 19 days. It's unlikely Jenkins will be back by then. If Wright's ankle/foot issue is severe, the Bears might have to go to Borom, a guy they benched last season in Week 1.
General manager Ryan Poles tried to revamp the offensive line this offseason to give Fields the protection needed to take a leap as a passer. On paper, the "best five" of Jones, Jenkins, Whitehair, Davis, and Wright was much better than the leaky unit the Bears trotted out last season.
But that "best five" took seven padded snaps together in training camp, and now only Jones is fully healthy.
The Bears believe in Fields but need to get a full evaluation of him this season to confidently project their path forward at quarterback. It's unreasonable to expect him to make the jump his talent suggests with a decimated offensive line.
An offensive line the Bears thought could be a strength this season has been wiped out during training camp. There's still time for them to get mostly whole, but it's a dire situation on Aug. 22. That's the last place Eberflus, Fields, and the Bears wanted to find themselves.