LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Bears said they would be open to all options on the offensive line when right guard Nate Davis returned from a high ankle sprain.
But as is normally the case at Halas Hall, the expected solution was the one the Bears reached.
With Davis returning to practice in full Wednesday at Halas Hall, head coach Matt Eberflus announced that Teven Jenkins will move back to left guard, with Davis slotting in at right guard.
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Jenkins has been dominant at right guard since Davis went down in Week 6. The third-year offensive lineman said he's comfortable at right guard, where he played last season, and "found a groove" next to rookie right tackle Darnell Wright.
But in the end, the Bears believe their "best five" has Davis at his normal spot and Jenkins moving positions once again.
"Just a natural position," Eberflus said Wednesday when asked about the Jenkins-Davis decision. "That’s what Nate has played. And it gives us the flexibility, because Tev has played both sides. Tev has looked good on both sides. That’s just the best operation that we feel for each position experience."
With Jenkins moving to left guard, veteran Cody Whitehair is on the outside looking in. The Bears planned for Whitehair to be their starting center this season. He opened the year at left guard with Jenkins on injured reserve. The Bears moved Whitehair back to center when Jenkins returned, but he struggled with snaps and was replaced by Lucas Patrick in Week 6.
Patrick will be the starting center Sunday when the Bears visit the Detroit Lions.
"Those are always hard, when you get back to full strength, and Cody has been a true pro," Eberflus said of the decision to bench Whitehair. "Obviously a captain here for many years. Had a great long career and is still going to continue to help us as we go. That’s our starting lineup for this week, and you know (snaps fingers) things can happen like that, and he’s back into the mix at center, guard, wherever it might be. We’re fortunate that we have the flexibility to do that — to move Teven to both sides; to have Cody play guard or center. So we’re fortunate that way, and he brings that flexibility to our team."
There's a chance that Whitehair could platoon at right guard Sunday. The Bears expect Davis to play the full load, but the plan could change based on where the veteran guard's wind is upon return.
"We feel that his conditioning level is really good," Eberflus said of Davis. "That’s what our performance staff is telling us, and that’s what he’s telling us. But again, we got to see it on the practice field. Again, we anticipate him playing the whole way, but if we have to make modifications based on what we see this week, we will do that."
Assuming Davis has no setbacks this week, Sunday will be the first time the Bears' planned offensive line (Braxton Jones, Jenkins, Patrick/Whitehair, Davis, and Wright) will have played a snap together this season.
The decision to move Jenkins back to left guard always felt like the route the Bears would go when Davis returned. But it's risky to move Jenkins and mess with a right side that has been firing on all cylinders over the past few weeks. But Davis has only played right guard in the NFL, and the Bears gave him a three-year, $33 million contract last offseason to play in that slot. They have confidence that Jenkins can dominate on the left side in time, but they are tinkering with something that has worked well over the last month, and that's always a gamble, no matter the players involved in the decision.
With quarterback Justin Fields also set to return from a dislocated right thumb, the Bears are exiting the mini-bye as healthy as they have been all season and are hopeful that will lead to a strong finish to what has been a disappointing season to this point.