The offensive line is a constant topic of discussion for the Chicago Bears as the season goes on. It’s not about whether GM Ryan Pauls will make changes to the lineup, but how many. Justin Fields needs better protection than he’s had this year. This makes the last seven matches of 2022 important for all involved. Part of the problem is that the team has yet to play five of training camp due to injuries. Three starters from Sunday against Detroit started the year as backups. Only one player has not missed a shot this season. This is Braxton Jones.
No one could have seen that coming a few months ago. Jones was just a fifth rounder from Southern Utah. He was an interesting athletic talent who performed well in the Senior Bowl. The Poles and the coaching staff liked his potential. They never thought he would steal the starting left job as a junior. However, here it is. What remains uncertain is whether he will continue working into the next year. And the Bears’ former director of scouting, Greg Gabriel, has no doubts about that. He thinks the team got a steal in Jones, and it’s going to get a lot better in the near future.
“I also feel like freshman Braxton Jones and second-year player Tevin Jenkins shine at left tackle and right guard. As I wrote a few weeks ago, Jones has been stealing the fifth inning and has a bright future. While he’s going through the pains of rookie growth, He’s getting better every week, and he’ll be a winning left tackle for the Bears. Jenkins, who has been dealing with college, is already one of the best guards in the NFL. His running blocking is great, but he can be inconsistent on professional passes. That will come with additional experience.”
Gabrielle wasn’t wrong about Braxton Jones’ improvement.
Over his first six games, the rookie has allowed 20 pressures and four sacks on the quarterback. Since then, he has allowed nine pressures and one sack in the past four games. Jones has become one of the best running blockers if that wasn’t enough. Pro Football Focus awarded him a grade of 74.7 for the season. Only Tevin Jenkins is the best. Jones ranks 12th among all NFL tackles (minimum 150 tackles). Sure, he’s been going through some tough moments from time to time. Nobody should be shocked by this. People need to remember he was playing games against Montana, Idaho, and Weber State this time last year.
Most young blockers never survive a huge leap in competition. Braxton Jones did it. He is the only rookie to have a starting FCS job this year. The remainder came from Washington State, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio State, and Mississippi State. He may not be promoting hacks every week, but people need to appreciate how good he is. What Jones is doing is not normal. If Gabriel is right and takes a big step forward next year, it will be considered one of the biggest heists of the past decade.