We’ve now seen multiple days with rookie Braxton Jones taking all or most of the snaps at left tackle with the first team at Bears camp. The fifth-round rookie out of Southern Utah has continued to impress his coaches as Chicago tries to figure out just who will be among their starting five for 2022.
The offensive line is perhaps the biggest question mark for the Bears, with most positions up for grabs given a recent injury to newly arrived veteran center Lucas Patrick. Sam Mustipher, who played center for the Bears last year, has been splitting reps there with rookie Doug Kramer. Cody Whitehair seems to be the only lock, playing left guard. The team signed veterans Michael Schofield and Riley Reiff in the last week. Schofield has been working the majority of snaps at right guard, rotating with Ja’tyre Carter, while Reiff, though initially seeing a few snaps at left tackle with Jones as he ramped up into practice, has now been exclusively switching off with Larry Borom at right tackle.
Teven Jenkins was believed by many, including the last regime, to be the Bears’ blind-side protector of the future but he has been absent from the last six practices. Head Coach Matt Eberflus said on Wednesday that his absence was ‘100% injury related’ as he works through an undisclosed injury with trainers. Meanwhile, rumors of Jenkins being on the trading block have begun to swirl and with Jones looking strong at the position, Jenkins days in Chicago may be numbered.
Part of it may also have to do with the fact that Jones was brought in by new General Manager Ryan Poles, a former offensive lineman himself. General managers tend to trust their own evaluations over those of a former regime, so nothing new there. It seems like all sides would benefit from a change of scenery for Jenkins.
Though a rookie, Braxton Jones anchors well, seems to know his leverage and has a powerful 6-foot-5, 310-pound frame. Reports out of Bears camp on Wednesday said he took a majority of his reps going against edge rushers Robert Quinn and Al-Quadin Muhammad. Quinn had been ramping up himself and Wednesday was the first day he participated in the team period. Muhammad has been part of Eberflus’ scheme for the past four years when the pair were in Indianapolis together so the mastery he has of his role, coupled with the underrated defender he is, makes him a very tough opponent.
The fact that Jones held up speaks volumes.
Braxton Jones was named All-Big Sky at Southern Utah, starting all six games of their spring season at left tackle and all 10 games at the position the previous fall.
Of course, the Bears could be giving him as many reps as possible in order to evaluate him as quickly as possible, knowing they have Reiff, who spent a majority of his career at left tackle. It’s where Reiff is most comfortable too, by his own admission. Reiff played right tackle in Cincinnati last year, though it didn’t yield as good of results as he would have probably hoped. Now that he’s in the swing of things though, he could perhaps take a step forward at the position in Chicago. And him rotating at right tackle right now makes me think they wouldn’t start him there and switch him back. But who knows?
It was kind of no-pressure situation to try Jones out then at left tackle. We’ll see if he ultimately stays there throughout camp as the line further gets solidified.
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