How Bears' Braxton Jones assessed NFL debut vs. Nick Bosa, 49ers

·5 min read

Now 'on film,' Jones knows where he must improve after debut vs. Bosa originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

CHICAGO – Braxton Jones stared down the first test of his NFL career. The Bears rookie left tackle got got by Nick Bosa plenty of times in the Bears' 19-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.

That was going to happen. Jones knew that. The first half was particularly rough for all members of the Bears' offensive line. The 49ers folded in the Bears' front five throughout the half as quarterback Justin Fields and the offense mustered just two first downs in its first five possessions.

But the Bears rebounded in the second half, reeling off 19 unanswered points to shock the 49ers in the rain at Soldier Field. That short memory and keep-chopping mentality served Jones and the front five well in the second half.

"First half, a little rocky," Jones told NBC Sports Chicago after the win. "I didn't feel like I started slow or just in terms of my body or getting off the ball. Plays happen. You get beat. The biggest thing for me was just responding. I knew there was going to be bad plays here and there. How did I respond? Look at the film. Not dive too much into it but get enough to where I can fix it and play the next play. That was the biggest thing was just responding in that second half and coming out and pounding the rock."

The Bears are asking a lot of Jones, a fifth-round draft pick from Southern Utah. Five months ago, Jones entered as a developmental offensive lineman. But he quickly ascended to first-team left tackle and has "blown away" general manager Ryan Poles with his fast development.

Jones didn't face a marquee test during the preseason. The Cleveland Browns sat Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney in the preseason finale. So Sunday, against Bosa and the 49ers' front, was the first real NFL test of Jones' progress.

It was far from perfect. He got pushed back into Fields' lap on numerous occasions. But the rookie steadied himself, and Fields' ability to escape the pocket and extend plays in the second half took some pressure off the offensive line.

"I think it was just trusting my teaching and trusting my coaching," Jones said of his second-half improvement. "That's the biggest thing is not playing outside of myself. I got to play within my game and within what I do. That was the biggest thing was just playing a little bit more controlled.

"A couple of those plays, I tried to do a little bit too much and that's just not me. I stay to what I do. I don't need to go crazy out to [Bosa} or anything like that. It's going to get you beat. If you stay nice and controlled and do what you do and just trust your teaching and your technique, that's what I did in the second half."

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The Bears' offense was relatively listless in the first half. Fields went into halftime with just three completions for 19 yards and an interception. He was sacked twice in the first half and pressured constantly.
But the Bears' offense stayed committed to their game plan and felt they started to win the battle in the trenches as the game wore on.

"The biggest thing is, like we've talked about, I was going to win some and he's going to win some," Jones said. At the end of the day, it was about who kept on punching and who kept on going. I felt like, not just between me and him, that doesn't really matter, but as an O-line and as a front five, we just kept on going, and it kind of wore on them. Wore on that front. All of them.

"That was the biggest thing is, we just kept on coming. No matter if they stopped us six times in the first half, or however many times it was, we just kept on coming. That was the biggest thing. That's how I felt. When you keep on coming and you're just grinding the ball it's going to go good."

Jones knows he has a lot to work on, starting with his ability to stop the bull rush, something Bosa got him with a few times Sunday.

With the Green Bay Packers and edge rushers Rashan Gary and Preston Smith up next, Jones knows he has to clean some things up. Teams know what beats him now.

"I'm on tape now," Jones said. "I give up the bull rush. They know that. All the teams know that. I think the biggest thing, like I've told you, my biggest problem is the bull rush. That's the only thing I lost to tonight. Making sure I'm doing a better job anchoring. Not playing so high and then trusting my technique.

"There were a couple other plays where I trusted it and I was a little bit more patient, and it got me a better result than flying out of there high and getting bull rushed."

After a so-so NFL debut, Jones is headed back into the lab with offensive line coach Chris Morgan to make sure what beat him in Week 1 won't beat him going forward.

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