(670 The Score) As the Bears balance a focus on their future with whatever hopes to contend remain this season, they’re expected to get a boost in both regards soon.
Rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins is expected to return from injured reserve in the coming weeks -- and perhaps as soon as following this bye. A second-round pick of the Bears in April, Jenkins has spent the last three months recovering from back surgery in August and can be designated for a return from injured reserve at any point.
Jenkins worked out at Heinz Field prior to kickoff Monday night in Pittsburgh and has been progressing well behind the scenes at Halas Hall. Now it’s a matter of how and when the Bears work him back.
When the Bears traded up to select Jenkins, they did so believing he would be their left tackle of the future. The 23-year-old Jenkins never took the field for training camp as his back issues forced surgery several weeks later. The Bears then signed Jason Peters, 39, who took over at left tackle and has been their best offensive lineman.
While Jenkins and the Bears might benefit in the long term from him sliding into the left tackle position in the second half of the season, it also wouldn't seem wise to remove the top blocker for rookie quarterback Justin Fields. Even if the veteran Peters is playing his final games with the Bears, there's great value in him doing a good job protecting Fields’ blindside.
Jenkins could instead return at right tackle, where the Bears have been forced to start four different players in nine games this season. The complication is the team also believes in fellow rookie Larry Borom as a long-term option at right tackle, and the coaching staff has praised Borom's play as he started the past two games.
Ultimately, Jenkins would seem to have the higher upside than Borom and should be prioritized at right tackle. He would gain the experience of NFL games before heading into a pivotal offseason during which an acclimation to left tackle could take place.
Of course, getting Jenkins back up to speed could take several weeks. He still hasn't worked in a full-contact NFL practice and needs to combine the mental repetitions from the film room with the increased speed of the game. Whenever the Bears officially designate his return from injured reserve, it would open a 21-day window in which he can practice.
Jenkins is close to being cleared to return, and the Bears will have a decision to make in the near future on where he fits.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.