Lineup changes in June shouldn’t be considered anything concrete for an NFL team, but it can at least indicate what a coaching staff sees from players. The offensive line seemed to have a set combination at the tackle position throughout minicamps and early Organized Team Activities. Larry Borom was at left tackle, and Teven Jenkins was at right. Nothing seemed amiss until the media showed up on Wednesday. That was when they noticed a different number lining up at left tackle with the first-team offense. It was Braxton Jones, the Bears’ rookie 5th round pick.
Borom had shifted over to right tackle while Jenkins ran with the second-team offense. While it’s too early to make assumptions on anything, especially with the team having not practiced in pads yet, it was a development that was difficult to ignore. Head coach Matt Eberflus said it was a decision by coaches to see different combinations. The idea is to find the absolute best starting five.
The Bears must like what they see from Braxton Jones.
Draft experts saw the Southern Utah left tackle as somebody with impressive physical talent but raw and incomplete fundamentals. He has the tools to play in the NFL but would need time to refine his techniques. The numbers don’t lie. Jones is 6’5 and 310 lbs with 35-inch arms. That is premier NFL size and length. His 4.97 in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine was among the best times for any offensive linemen at the event. For context, that time is better than Pro Bowlers Jack Conklin, Eric Fisher, Jake Matthews, and Laremy Tunsil.
Jones is a bit of a freak. If he’d gone to a more prestigious program in college, there is a strong likelihood he’d have been a Day 2 pick at least. Maybe even a 1st rounder. Most of the Bears’ decision-making might be out of experimentation. Still, they wouldn’t be considering Braxton Jones as the starting left tackle if he weren’t showing them something positive in practices. It will be interesting if his name continues to pop up in the coming weeks.
Southern Utah LT Braxton Jones is an intriguing prospect. Listed at 6’7″ 310 with prototypical length, he uses his hands really well, can generate impressive control on blocks, & consistently looks to finish. pic.twitter.com/FQ3MfRgVIe
—Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 6, 2021
Would it be unprecedented for the Bears to start a rookie there?
Not in general. Jordan Mills became their starting right tackle as a rookie in 2013 and played the entire season. It went really well considering the offense finished 2nd in points scored and 8th in total yards. So the idea that Jones can’t do something similar isn’t true. It comes down to how he adjusts to the major step up in competition. Mills came out of a Division I program at Louisiana Tech. Southern Utah comes from the FCS.
There aren’t many future Robert Quinns at that level. If Jones can hold his own in practice against somebody who had 18 sacks last season, then the excitement becomes justified. This may come down to who emerges as a better run blocker between him and Borom. That isn’t considered a strength for either player. Luke Getsy’s wide zone offense demands capable such blocking. So whoever showcases more improvement in that area might carry the day.
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