‘Oh damn!' Jenkins' pancake of Bosa shows he can be dominant guard


LAKE FOREST – It has been a month since a call from offensive line coach Chris Morgan changed Teven Jenkins' NFL path. The shift from tackle to guard gave Jenkins new life in his quest to be part of the Bears' best five on the offensive line, and he has taken full advantage of it.

Two days after kicking inside, Jenkins ran with the ones. Two days later, he started a preseason game in Seattle. On Sunday, Jenkins made his NFL regular-season debut at guard as part of a rotation with Lucas Patrick against the San Francisco 49ers.

Now a month into his transition, Jenkins feels more settled as an interior offensive lineman. The speed at which the Bears needed Jenkins to make the change helped ground him in his new reality.

"The process is actually getting a lot better," Jenkins told NBC Sports Chicago on Friday. "Just being thrown in the fire and having to deal with it and the role, you start to have to pick up things a lot faster. It's basically like how you throw a kid in the pool and tell him sink or swim."

If his Week 1 performance is any indication, Jenkins is no longer in danger of letting the water overtake him. Against the 49ers, Jenkins played 31 snaps and allowed only one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The lack of pressure surrendered is obviously a positive. But if one play illustrates how far Jenkins has come in his development as a guard in the Bears' scheme, it was when the second-year offensive lineman introduced himself to 49ers star Nick Bosa.

In the second quarter of the Bears' 19-10 win over the 49ers, Jenkins saw Bosa make an inside move on right tackle Larry Borom. Jenkins read Bosa and pancaked the star edge rusher before getting out to block for a scrambling Justin Fields on the edge.

"I was handing [Arik] Armstead over to Sam [Mustipher]," Jenkins told NBC Sports Chicago of the play. "I know my responsibility, like I said with my eyes, my responsibility goes right to [helping] Larry [Borom]. I saw Bosa start to make an inside move. I said to myself, 'if he comes inside, I have to give him a good hit.' I went over there and I gave him a good pop. I looked down at him and I just see Larry get on top of him. I was like, 'Oh, damn!'"

"By the time I looked back up, I realized Justin still had the ball. I said, 'He's about to start scrambling outside, so I got to get going.' Of course, Justin is a lot faster than me, so I couldn't get the edge for him. I wanted to.

"Have to turn my 40 into a 4.2 real quick," Jenkins added, laughing.

The pancake of Bosa will get all the attention, and rightfully so. But to Jenkins, it's how he handled his responsibilities perfectly on the play, inside to out, and used his eyes effectively and efficiently to keep the pressure off his quarterback.

The entire sequence is a sign that everything is clicking. This great experiment of the Bears seems to be working, and the results are arriving much faster than expected.

"It's a confidence boost knowing that I can do that to one of the top players," Jenkins said. "Being able to do that it also gives Larry confidence to believe in me that I will have his inside when I'm supposed to be there. That felt good."

Overall, Jenkins gives himself a B for his performance against the 49ers. He was critical of his play in the moment, but upon watching film, he saw the fruits of his labor.

The progress is exceptional. There's no other way to frame what has happened—turning a former second-round pick fighting for a roster spot into a starting-caliber guard in four weeks is a testament to Jenkins and Morgan.

Jenkins has gone from treading water to the front stroke in short order. He's functional. His high football IQ, quick processing, strength, and physicality have made the move easier than it would be for most.

But he has still got miles to go.

"Sometimes I be setting too fast in my sets, flying out of there and leaving my double team too fast. Little things. Hand placement. It's tight elbows," Jenkins told NBC Sports about what comes next in his development. "Little things that will come to make a big difference when you play great people like we just did. Those little things need to be corrected and a lot more cleaned up in order to be more dominant."

The Week 1 rotation with Patrick, who is recovering from a thumb injury to his snapping hand, didn't bother Jenkins. He viewed it as a bonus that allowed him and Patrick to "go all out" for the two series they were given before being swapped.

Jenkins didn't get a soft landing zone from the NFL schedule-makers. He faced Armstead in Week 1 and now has the pleasure of trying to stop Green Bay Packers star Kenny Clark from wrecking the Bears' offense on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

The Bears' guard chuckled when asked about the tests he has faced to start the season. Armstead and Clark are two of the best defensive tackles in the NFL this side of Aaron Donald. It's an early-measuring stick for a guy who believes he can be "dominant" once his feet are fully underneath him at his new position.

Clark is a phenomenal player. He's a key to what Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry wants to do. Jenkins has tremendous respect for Clark but seems confident he'll hold up Sunday just as he did against Armstead.

That confidence comes from all the work Jenkins has put in to fill a need for the Bears. The sweat he has poured into the bucket is already starting to pay off. He's also much happier now that he has a singular focus, and the trade talk has all but died.

"I can finally focus on football," Jenkins told NBC Sports Chicago. "It makes a big difference. Back, however many weeks ago that was, I had to worry about if I was going to have to pack my house up, cars, dogs. So now when we get to the regular season and I'm still here, I can focus on football. I know it's still around maybe, but I don't have to focus on it."

Focus solely on Clark, his hands, elbows, and eyes, Jenkins is ready to start the next level of his guard education.

He believes the potential is there for him to be a dominant guard. That idea is no longer abstract. There's proof of concept on film.

Just ask Nick Bosa.

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