One of the biggest bits of news to come out of Halas Hall last week was hearing the coaches elevated 5th round rookie Braxton Jones to the starting left tackle spot in drills. Larry Borom was shifted to the right side, while Teven Jenkins was demoted to the second team. Head coach Matt Eberflus stated all of this was pure experimentation. They wanted to shuffle things around, trying to find the best possible five starters for the offensive line.
It is hard to fault them for that approach. The well-being of Justin Fields must be their top priority. If Jenkins isn’t performing well, they can’t let his draft status distract them from doing the right thing. Yet even now, plenty of people aren’t ready to buy the idea that the Bears would willingly start a rookie at left tackle. Yet there is plenty of evidence to suggest the odds are more favorable than those people believe.
For one, he might be the most natural left tackle on the roster. Borom and Jenkins were both right tackles in college. Jones was exclusively a left tackle. He has far more experience at that position than they do. If that weren’t enough, it isn’t like teams have shied away from starting late round picks in the past. Mark Tauscher was a 7th rounder in 2000 for Green Bay and started 14 games. Jordan Mills started all 16 for the Bears as a 5th rounder in 2013. That team had the 8th-best offense in football.
Braxton Jones deserves a shot if he earns it.
It is usually a good sign that rookies push for playing time so early. Tauscher ended up starting 132 games for the Packers. Clary started 93. Mills started 87. Some may think the Bears are considering this route out of pure desperation, but I don’t believe that is the case. Borom proved to be a decent option at left tackle last year. There is no reason to think he’d be a huge liability. It is more likely Jones has looked good enough to see what he can do against starters.
If he holds his own over the coming weeks, that might give the team more flexibility in crafting a plan for the offensive line. Him locking down left tackle would allow them to choose between Jenkins and Borom at right tackle with one or the other being moved inside to right guard. That is the kind of ripple effect Braxton Jones can have. Fans shouldn’t be fearful of such a development.
They should be excited.
It offers hope the team found somebody who looks like an eventual long-term starter. On top of that, it also demonstrates that GM Ryan Poles does indeed have a strong eye for offensive linemen. Not unexpected, considering he played the position in his young days, as did assistant GM Ian Cunningham. The true testing ground for Jones will arrive late next month when training camp begins. He’ll have to prove himself in pads against the likes of Robert Quinn, Trevis Gipson, and Al-Quadin Muhammad. That will be a development worth watching.