6 Bears who need to have great training camp

Nate Atkins
Bears Wire

Training camp is around the corner for the Chicago Bears, and the depth chart is still very fluid.

There are plenty of new and returning faces heading into camp. Some have pedigree and others are still trying to find their place in the NFL. Finally, there are former stars hoping for a rebound season.

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Given the front office and coaching staff turnover, very few players are guaranteed their starting roles from last year. Which brings added importance to camp this year.

With that in mind, here are six players on the roster who need to have a great training camp.

OT Teven Jenkins

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields advances the ball past the block of offensive tackle Teven Jenkins as Minnesota Vikings defensive end Patrick Jones II pursues during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The chatter around Tevin Jenkins is concerning. Once regarded as a franchise left tackle, it now seems he might not have a defined role within the offense. Last year, he struggled in limited playing time as he overcame a back injury.

But during the offseason program, he was moved to right tackle and later moved from the starting lineup to the second unit. Now, after the injury to Dakota Dozier, some are asking if the Bears should move Jenkins inside to guard.

Initially a right tackle in college, the move from left to right isn’t too concerning. But the move from starter to reserve created smoke, and maybe there’s an actual fire. If Jenkins is the starting right tackle, he’ll need to prove it in training camp. And if he’s getting moved inside, the Bears need to do it sooner than later.

WR Dante Pettis 

New York Giants receiver Dante Pettis (13) reacts after making a touchdown catch against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half at MetLife Stadium.

At 26, the once second-round pick has yet to find a home. After a decent rookie year with the 49ers, Dante Pettis was injured in 2019 and was released in 2020. He signed with the Giants but never found his footing after getting injured. So Chicago might be the last stop before the bus stop for Pettis.

Pettis thrived as a punt returner and the second option to speedster John Ross in college. But none of the production from college has translated to the NFL. So while he might continue to find a home on NFL rosters as a WR4 or WR5, the time is now to prove he’s the starting wide receiver many thought he could become as a rookie.

WR Velus Jones Jr.

Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones (WO15) runs the 40-yard dash during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Velus Jones Jr. is the first offensive player drafted under the new regime. Justin Fields handpicked him as one of the receivers he’d like to play with in the new offense, and of course, he’s 25 years old.

While Jones has time to develop, there will undoubtedly be pressure from the media and fans for him to produce immediately. If he doesn’t perform well, it’ll be because he’s an old rookie and a bad pick. The criticism will be unfair, but it is not an unrealistic prediction of the future.

DT Khyiris Tonga

Chicago Bears nose tackle Khyiris Tonga (95) reacts after recovering a fumble against the New York Giants.

Khyiris Tonga finds himself in a great position. As a former seventh-round pick, he has a chance to become a long-time starter for the Bears as an interior defensive lineman.

Tonga isn’t the most athletic or the strongest, but he produced last year, turning in 24 tackles in 15 games. Fortunately, the starting role appears to be his to lose. Hopefully, he holds onto the job, where he’ll have some competition from Mike Pennel.

CB Duke Shelley

Cleveland Browns running back Demetric Felton, left, runs against Chicago Bears cornerback Duke Shelley after a catch during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

While Duke Shelley is one of the more experienced cornerbacks on the roster, he’ll be competing for a role in the secondary. Shelley spent most of his time as the nickel cornerback, but free-agent Tavon Young and second-year player Thomas Graham Jr. will likely take over the first and second-team roles.

Shelley will get pushed to CB2 but faces pressure from rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon. After drafting Gordon in the second round, the former Washington Husky has impressed the coaching staff with his athleticism and ability to make plays, and he’s expected to start opposite Jaylon Johnson. Unfortunately, none of this seems to indicate good things for Duke Shelley.

S Eddie Jackson

Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams runs toward Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson during the first half Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, at Ford Field.

Eddie Jackson is the sixth highest-paid safety in the NFL. However, after his spectacular 2018 season with 15 pass breakups and six interceptions, he’s only produced two and 12 pass breakups over the past three seasons.

The lack of production isn’t because teams are shying away from him. On the contrary, quarterbacks are completing 62% of their passes against Jackson with an average passer rating of 104.3, effectively making him one of the worst safeties in the league in coverage.

The sixth-year veteran is aware of the criticism and took responsibility for his poor play. But now it’s time to return to form and be the player deserving of the current contract. Otherwise, he’s going to be a very rich former Bear.