Lake Forest, Ill.– The Chicago Bears will start the second week of training camp at Halas Hall on Monday. With four practices officially in the books, Monday will mark the first time during training camp that the Bears will practice in pads, meaning we’re one week closer to real football.
We already recapped some of the biggest takeaways from week one of practice, which you can view here.
As the Bears prepare to report for another week of training camp, let’s break down 10 things worth keeping an eye on.
1) The Teven Jenkins situation.
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus has declined to disclose anything regarding 2021 second-round pick Teven Jenkins, leading to rampant speculation about what is really going on with Jenkins, who missed all of training camp last year and all but six games in 2021 as he dealt with a back injury.
“Again, he falls into that category where he’s working through something with the trainers, and it’s a day-to-day thing with those guys,” Eberflus said following practice on Friday. “When he’s able to return, he will return.”
Late on Saturday night, ESPN Chicago’s David Kaplan said that he’s heard rumors about Jenkins being “immature and clashing with offensive line coach Chris Morgan. The overarching theme here is that if Jenkins is going to be a part of the Bears future, both parties need to find some sort of middle ground when it comes to figuring out what Jenkins real role is with the team.
2) Can three rookie offensive linemen take another step forward?
Braxton Jones, Zachary Thomas, and Doug Kramer. The Bears drafted a handful of offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft but through the first week of training camp, Thomas, Kramer, and Jones have impressed. With Teven Jenkins and veteran Lucas Patrick out, there are a number of additional reps to go around.
This only reinforces the importance of the offensive line competition the Bears are currently having. After a strong first week, Jones, Kramer, and Thomas should begin week two with the belief that they’re playing for a starting job as rookies. However, even if they don’t start in 2022, they will still serve as valuable depth pieces.
3) Which second and third-string cornerbacks will “separate themselves from the pack?”
The Bears starting cornerbacks, Jaylon Johnson and rookie Kyler Gordon are off to fast starts in training camp but beyond both, the Bears have some question marks. Veteran Tavon Young and Thomas Graham Jr., a 2021 sixth-round pick saw some reps in the slot during the first week of training camp.
The Bears have a number of younger players, Kindle Vildor, Duke Shelley, Lamar Jackson, Jayson Stanley, and Greg Stroman that could compete for roster spots. Figuring out what depth the Bears could have throughout the season is of utmost importance as the defense continues to form a new identity.
4) Could the Bears decide to get Trestan Ebner involved in the return game?
From All-Pro Safety Eddie Jackson to 2021 sixth-round pick Dazz Newsome, the Bears had a number of players fielding punts throughout week one. One name to add to the mix, is Trestan Ebner, a 2021 sixth-round pick.
Throughout college, Ebner saw time as a returner, averaging 25.3 yards per return, per Sports Reference. Outside of being a return specialist, Ebner is also able to provide some value as a receiver out of the backfield. Essentially, with a player like him, the Bears would be getting a versatile weapon that could contribute on special teams while playing a rotational role on offense.
5) Can Justin Fields continue his strong start?
One of the key storylines about week one of training camp was Justin Fields starting off strong and never looking back. The second-year quarterback struggled on Thursday but responded with a strong practice on Friday, being the catalyst behind a good offensive showing.
As Fields enters week two, it’s apparent that he’s in full command of this offense but to really take another step forward, he’ll need to continue building chemistry with players like Bryon Pringle, N’Keal Harry, and Equanimeous St.Brown if the Bears offense is going to figure out any sort of identity.
6) Which wide receivers will continue to shine?
Outside of Darnell Mooney and Velus Jones Jr., the Bears need to see more from Bryon Pringle, N’Keal Harry, and Equanimeous St.Brown. Chicago rolled the dice on all three this offseason, making low-risk, high-reward moves. Neither have been significant contributors throughout their NFL careers but Pringle did have 42 receptions in 2021, so the Bears are hoping he can develop into the third wide receiver the team is searching for.
7) Can rookie Dominique Robinson build upon a successful week one?
“He’s attentive in meetings,” said pass rusher Trevis Gipson. He asks questions, asks the right questions. He finishes, as our coaches preach and I think I see a lot of eagerness in him. I think he’s eager, like I said, to be good.
Gipson’s comments regarding rookie pass rusher Dominique Robinson are noteworthy. An incredibly raw prospect that has the ideal length and traits needed to play pass rusher, the Bears are high on Robinson’s upside and believe that he can develop into a building block on defense.
After a strong week one, Robinson could be ahead of schedule, so how he performs in week two of training camp could dictate just how quickly he realizes his full potential.
8) Will we see a ramp-up period for Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield?
After signing right before the Bears reported to training camp, Rieff and Schofield spent much of the first week getting acclimated with their new team. That included being on a snap count in practice as the Bears eased both into action. With a full week’s worth of practice under their belts, week two should both receive increased reps with Reiff starting at left tackle and Schofield battling for the starting right guard job.
9) Why is lack of depth at inside linebacker a concern for the Bears?
Outside of Joe Thomas and Nicholas Morrow, the Bears lack any sort of legitimate options at inside linebacker with star Roquan Smith continuing his holdout. It’s possible that the Bears decide to look toward the wavier wire in late August for some veteran help to shore up inside linebacker. If Smith does eventually return, the Bears should still look for additional reinforcements.
10) Could Sam Mustipher be a darkhorse candidate to start at Center?
With veteran Lucas Patrick now out for an extended period of time, the Bears were forced to move Sam Mustipher back to Center, the position he played throughout 2021. Chicago’s reasoning is simple: With the team continuing to experiment with a number of offensive line combinations, the team is evaluating whether or not Mustipher could actually anchor the middle of the offensive line in the outside zone scheme that the team is hoping to run.
The opportunity for Mustipher to start in 2022 and become a household name is certainly there for the former Notre Dame product.
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