30 Most Important Bears of 2022: No. 17 Braxton Jones

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The Chicago Bears are gearing up for the 2022 NFL season, which features plenty of new and returning faces within the organization. There are a number of players, coaches and front office members that are crucial to the team’s success this season.

Every day from now until the start of training camp, we’re counting down our 30 most important Bears for the 2022 season. We’ll recap their 2021 season, look ahead to 2022 and tackle the biggest question facing them this year.

At No. 17 is rookie tackle Braxton Jones, a player who seemingly is becoming more and more vital to the team with each passing practice.

Background

Southern Utah offensive lineman Braxton Jones runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, March 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

PositionTackle

Age: 23

Experience: 1st season

2022 cap hit: $779,887

2021 recap

Southern Utah offensive lineman Braxton Jones (77) in the first half during an NCAA football game against Arizona State on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

During his final collegiate season at Southern Utah, Jones was locking down the left side of the offensive line. Jones played in 11 games for the Thunderbirds during the fall campaign, all at left tackle and earned honors such as All-Big Sky and All-FCS. He pulled double duty in 2021 as well, playing in all six games during the spring season that was moved due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jones essentially played an entire NFL season over the course of one calendar year and did so at left tackle.

His size, ability, and achievements at Southern Utah resulted in an invite to the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine last winter, where he further solidified his status as a high-upside offensive lineman. He was selected in the fifth round by the Bears, their first offensive lineman selected in the draft.

2022 outlook

May 7, 2022; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears offensive tackle Braxton Jones speaks at a news conference during team’s rookie minicamp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

When Jones was selected by the Bears, the thought was he would start out as a reserve behind players such as Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom. But that all changed when head coach Matt Eberflus decided to have him start at left tackle in offseason workouts for one practice. Then he had him do it again for the entire minicamp, indicating this is likely more than just experimenting with line combinations.

As of now, Jones has the inside track to start at left tackle, though things may still be fluid considering the team hasn’t put the pads on yet. But it’s a development that’s both positive and negative. Jones is showing the coaching staff that he’s capable of becoming a starter this early in his career, but it could also mean the team isn’t satisfied with what they’re seeing from the other tackles.

Big question: Will Jones be the starting left tackle for the entire season?

May 7, 2022; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears offensive tackle Braxton Jones speaks at a news conference during team’s rookie minicamp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s safe to say at this point Jones will get every chance to earn his spot at left tackle and while it’s difficult to project the starting lineup for week one, he’s in the driver’s seat as of now. But will he be able to keep that spot for the entire season? Jones has all of the physical tools, including an impressive arm length that will bode well against NFL defenders. He’s also raved about his coaches teaching him the nuance of playing offensive line, something he said he hasn’t had in that past.

But if he struggles, will the team make a change? And who might take his place if that happens? Last year at this time, the thinking was that Jenkins would be the team’s left tackle of the future and the new regime squashed that idea pretty quickly earlier this offseason.

If the Bears truly believe Jones can be a long-term solution, the staff should give him time to develop at the position. But when you’re trying to develop a young quarterback such as Justin Fields, time is rarely on your side when it comes to protection.

30 Most Important Bears of 2022

We’re counting down our 30 Most Important Bears of 2022. Check back every day leading up to the start of training camp.

30. RB Khalil Herbert

29. K Cairo Santos

28. S DeAndre Houston-Carson

27. DE Al-Quadin Muhammad

26. DE Robert Quinn

25. S Eddie Jackson

24. LB Nicholas Morrow

23. G Cody Whitehair

22. CB Tavon Young

21. FB Khari Blasingame

20. WR Velus Jones Jr.

19. TE Cole Kmet

18. OT Larry Borom

17. OT Braxton Jones

16. COMING 7/11

15. COMING 7/12

14. COMING 7/13

13. COMING 7/14

12. COMING 7/15

11. COMING 7/16

10. COMING 7/17

9. COMING 7/18

8. COMING 7/19

7. COMING 7/20

6. COMING 7/21

5. COMING 7/22

4. COMING 7/23

3. COMING 7/24

2. COMING 7/25

1. COMING 7/26

 

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