One of the biggest stories of Chicago Bears training camp has to be Braxton Jones ascending to play with the #1 offense at left tackle. This hasn’t been a one-day experiment, mind you. Jones first got the nod back in OTAs. Then after a brief demotion following the arrival of veteran Riley Reiff, he regained the job when Reiff shifted to right tackle. Not only is Jones a rookie, but also a 5th round pick. This development is far from common in the NFL. Head coach Matt Eberflus knows that. Yet he doesn’t seem bothered by it.
He said from the beginning that the goal of his coaching staff was simple. Find the five best blockers on the team and get them on the field together. Teven Jenkins failed to make an impression at right tackle, necessitating Larry Borom to shift to the right side. Then he struggled too, forcing Reiff to take over for him. All the while, Jones has remained steadfast in his grip on the left tackle spot. When asked to explain how this is possible, Eberflus offered details about their thinking.
Matt Eberflus understands the vital key to that position.
Every team knows the left tackle should be the best pass protector on the team. They’re trusted with guarding the blind side of the quarterback. It is why the position is viewed by many as the second-most important in football. Pass protection requires athleticism, quickness, and the ability to anchor. NFL scouts and draft experts agreed that Jones’ biggest strength coming out of college was his pass protection. It was natural for him, and he’d improved considerably leading up to the draft.
It is hard to know what feelings are appropriate here. On the one hand, seeing a rookie elevate to such a prominent role this quickly is encouraging. It offers hope the Bears may have found a potential gem for the future. On the other hand, one can’t help but feel this move is more about necessity than anything else. Matt Eberflus and the coaches consider him the best of mostly bad options.
Fans won’t have answers either way until they see Jones in action. Starters will play in the preseason. If he lines up with that first unit for the entire month and doesn’t look like a liability, the Bears may have something.