Last year, Chicago Bears left tackle Braxton Jones was a big question mark. He went on to start every game as a rookie fifth-round pick and has been one of the few constants on a Bears offense and roster afflicted by injuries.
For starters, left guard Teven Jenkins is dealing with two strained calves and could miss up to six weeks while he recovers.
That – plus an ill-timed hand injury has led to center Cody Whitehair getting reps at left guard this preseason. Whitehair has played left guard for the last two years. But he began his Bears career as a center. 2022 offseason pickup Lucas Patrick was set to fill in at one of the interior spots but he too has been sidelined as he ramps up from his injury.
Jones’ familiarity with Whitehair could pay off if this setup is the one they have in Week 1.
“We definitely have worked next to each other for a long time. So there’s a good duo there I would say,” Jones said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s nice having Cody because, obviously, I worked with him a little bit more than I had time with Teven.”
Jenkins was on the right side last season. He shifted over this year with the Bears adding Nate Davis – who has also missed ample practice time this summer – at right guard. The intended five-man starting offensive line has not played a snap together and will not until they get into the regular season.
This is where Jones’ consistency and approach come in most handy.
“I will work with anybody the same,” Jones said. “I mean I’m gonna ask Teven to get as much work as I’m gonna ask Cody. So it’s the same thing for me. I go about my work the same way. I want to be great with both guys.”
Bears Have Time to Heal Up
The Bears’ injury woes have been a big storyline during training camp. Several of their starters have missed most if not all of the preseason. And they are at risk of having as few as two of their five intended starting offensive linemen available in Week 1, though a third is looking more likely by the day.
Roster cutdowns are also on the horizon which will hurt their depth.
But Chicago will also have two weeks between the end of the preseason and their regular season opener against the Green Bay Packers on September 10.
All but Jenkins appear on track to be available for that contest.
With questions in other spots – some of which head coach Matt Eberflus said will be answered by Week 1 – getting the revamped offensive line together is imperative, and the sooner the Bears can do it the better.
Bears Send Veteran Pass-Catcher to IR
The Bears did a bit of housekeeping on Friday, sending veteran wide receiver Dante Pettis to injured reserve. Pettis has been one of the players most hindered by injuries and has missed a lot of practice time.
Perhaps in part because of his purported ability to return punts, they are giving him as much time as he needs to recover despite having depth.
They have cycled through returners throughout the summer.