Top 25 most important Bears of 2021: No. 6 Teven Jenkins
Leading up to Bears training camp in late July, we're is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2021 season.
What makes one player more important than another? That's subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can't play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?
No. 6 Teven Jenkins
Position: Offensive tackle
NFL Experience: Rookie
Looking back: The first rookie to crack the top 25 comes in pretty high. That's because the Bears are putting lofty expectations on rookie tackle Teven Jenkins. The Bears traded a second-round pick (52nd overall), a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick to Carolina in order to move up to No. 39 overall and grab Jenkins (they also received a fifth-round pick, which they used to select tackle Larry Borom). The Oklahoma State tackle was projected as a late first-round pick or early second-round pick.
The Bears released veteran left tackle Charles Leno in the days after the draft, paving the way for Jenkins to take over the starting left tackle position. Jenkins started 35 games over four seasons at Oklahoma State. Most of his experience came at right tackle. He started the 2020 season off at left tackle before injuries forced the Cowboys to shuffle some things around.
Looking forward: The Bears are going to be relying on a rookie at the most important position on the offensive line. So, yeah, Jenkins is a pretty important piece for the Bears in 2021. They wouldn't throw such a difficult assignment at Jenkins if they didn't think he could do it. The Bears believe they drafted a first-round caliber tackle. They believe they nabbed a rookie duo in Jenkins and quarterback Justin Fields who can be mutually beneficial to one another in the coming years. A quarterback is only as good as the offensive line protecting him.
Leno was a steady left tackle in Chicago. He never missed time due to injury, but rarely wowed anyone on film. The Bears envision Jenkins as more of a mauler, a tackle who can dominate opponents with his athleticism and who can knock a pass rusher onto his back. Hinging this season's success on a rookie left tackle might be perilous, but all indications point toward Jenkins having the ability to do it. If it works, Jenkins was a steal at 39th overall. If it doesn't, the offensive line will be in trouble.