It didn’t take very long for Braxton Jones to impress the Chicago Bears coaching staff last year. He was working with the ones at rookie camp, then quickly earned some starting left tackle reps in OTAs and veteran minicamp, and by the time training camp rolled around he was Chicago’s starting left tackle. He held off holdover Larry Borom and free agent pick-up Riley Reiff, who both split time on the right side.
But left tackle, that was all Jones, And by all, I mean he took every rep at the position during the 2022 season. He was their only player not to miss a single play among the starting offensive or defensive players.
His length and athleticism make him the prototypical prospect for left tackle, but it’s his football intelligence and self-awareness that leads me to believe he can lock down the position in Chicago for the next several years.
“Yeah I would say a big thing for me is trying to anchor on this bull rush,” Jones said via Sports Illustrated. “I’ve been working on a couple things over and over again, especially in the pass game. I’ve gotta throw my tight hands over and over again and just playing fast. That’s the biggest thing, and just getting better every day. That’s my goal.”
Jones’ issues with the bullrush reared up all season long, but that quote above was from before Jones even took a snap in a preseason game. He said that just a week into 2022 training camp practices.
After playing his college ball at Southern Utah, a team in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Jones and the Bears knew he’d have some rookie growing pains.
He’s spent this offseason in the weight room working on adding more power for his base when anchoring, but he also has been putting in time with former Bear Olin Kreutz to hone his technique.
The jump from year one to year two for an NFL player is often the biggest he takes, and that’s because of the total dedication he can give to his craft as a professional. A year ago, Jones was getting comfortable as a pro, settling into a new environment, and learning his playbook, but now he’s laser-focused on getting ready for his sophomore season.
“He’s putting in a lot of work,” Chicago offensive line coach Chris Morgan said earlier this month. “His mindset’s really, really strong right now, and he’s attacked the offseason. So what he told you guys he was gonna do, he’s done it to this point.”
Pro Football Focus recently listed their breakout candidates for the NFC teams, and they felt so highly of Jones that he not only received their write-up as Chicago’s breakout, but he was mentioned in the lede, and he was one of two players to make in the title of their article.
“The fifth-round rookie started for the Bears and was the only player on the offense to play every single snap in 2022,” PFF wrote about Braxton. “Jones didn’t just handle a big workload, but he also played well, earning a 75.4 PFF grade that ranked 19th among players at the position. His 78.8 overall grade from Week 10 ranked ninth among left tackles.”
Jones will have a new left guard next to him in Teven Jenkins, so that will take some getting used to, but with the first of 10 OTA practices getting underway on Monday, he’ll have plenty of time to get comfortable.