Don’t Be Surprised When Braxton Jones is the Chicago Bears Starting Left Tackle

The Chicago Bears offensive line situation is so fluid right now, they gave the fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones a long look at left tackle with the first-string offense during last week’s full-squad mandatory minicamp.

And it sure sounds like the team is giving him a fair shot to win that starting job.

With good reason, too.

Back when Chicago chose Jones with the 168th pick in last April’s draft, the selection was giving off Charles Leno Jr. vibes. As in, the Bears took a late-round gamble on a player from a smaller school with extensive starting experience who had traits and skills that could translate to being a starter in the league. As was the case with Leno when he was coming into the league, there are rough edges that need to smooth out over time with Jones. There are technical and fundamental things that coaches need to work with Jones on improving. And he still needs to learn how to leverage his size and length against defenders. Remember, Jones is a rookie fifth-round pick and a work in progress. But Jones seems to understand all of that, telling reporters last week that has been the biggest part of his transition from college to the pros.

“In college, I was really reserved with my hands and I didn’t use my long arms to my advantage,” Jones said. “They’re a big thing for me and they’re going to help me be really good in this league. They’ve gotten better.”

That Jones already realizes this only months into his professional career feels like an important step. Because knowing is half the battle, after all. Jones’ understanding of leverage is an important step toward. Understand it now, then apply it in during what looks to be an open competition at left tackle. And if he does so successfully, there is no reason Jones can’t start at left tackle in Week 1. Is it rare to see a Day 3 rookie start at left tackle? Yes. But it isn’t unthinkable. And it certainly is not impossible given what the state of the offensive line looks like right now.

Head Coach Matt Eberflus has been trying to find the best combination of players at a number of positions. But giving Jones a run at left tackle feels different. It certainly looks different than trial runs at receiver, along the defensive line, and elsewhere at other position groups. There is a heightened sense of importance in getting it right on the offensive line (for obvious reasons). In other words, I don’t think Eberflus and Co. are throwing things out there just because they can. Since protecting Justin Fields and clearing space for ball carriers is of the utmost importance, I’d venture to suggest the Bears are putting these offensive line combinations together with the idea that if this is going to work out for us, our offensive line is going to look like THIS.

Because it’s not just getting the five best guys on the field. Instead, it is about getting five players who can work well together as one unit. One band, one sound. Jones at left tackle would represent one piece of the puzzle, but it is an important one. He’ll just need to hold off the competition when it re-starts at training camp.

written by

Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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