NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the grim news Bears head coach Matt Nagy delivered Wednesday, as Jenkins will have back surgery and could miss the whole year:
Now, it’s important to clarify that Nagy didn’t precisely say Jenkins would be out for 2021, but even his attempted positive spin on the rookie offensive tackle’s outlook paints a discouraging picture.
Chicago GM Ryan Pace made the bold move to trade up and acquire Fields with the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The next day, Pace moved up again to land Jenkins in Round 2, hoping he could convert from right tackle to the left side and be Fields’ long-term blindside blocker.
Unfortunately, the Bears had to rush into a contingency plan when it became clear Jenkins wouldn’t be available to start the upcoming season. They signed 39-year-old Jason Peters, who’s a nine-time Pro Bowler but is obviously at the tail end of his career.
The uncertain situation in the trenches could help decide Chicago’s QB battle one way or the other. On one hand, the Bears may roll with veteran Andy Dalton to begin the season, since he has experience and may be better equipped to handle potentially being under siege often.
On the other hand, the less promising the o-line looks, the more the Bears might lean toward Fields. As long as he shows enough mastery of the offense and understanding of defensive looks, Fields’ phenomenal arm talent and ability to escape pressure as a runner may lead him to be the starter sooner rather than later.
For now, it’s a bummer that Jenkins can’t step in and contribute right away. Expectations were obviously high for him out of the gates, and even though he lacks the elite physical tools of other tackle prospects, he was an absolute mauler and physical tone-setter at Oklahoma State, whose mentality is perfect for the Windy City.
The hope is that Jenkins can eventually return, and that Peters can hold up on the edge in the meantime.