Bears LT Braxton Jones working to improve vs. bull rush

Braxton Jones putting in work to improve vs. bull rush originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears are excited to see what Braxton Jones can do in year two of his career. The Bears have made it clear no one will be handed a job out of camp, but right now the team views him as their starting left tackle again.

Heading into the draft there were some questions as to whether Ryan Poles would bring in a new offensive tackle to compete with Jones on the left side, which could’ve led to Jones moving to the right side. As it turned out the Bears did draft an offensive tackle with a top-10 pick, but they selected Darnell Wright, who will begin the summer program as a right tackle. That will give Jones some breathing room to come in and show he’s made progress at the position over the offseason.

“I think anytime you can stay somewhere and perfect your craft and bank more reps, yeah it obviously helps,” said offensive line coach Chris Morgan. “It helps a lot.

“Braxton did a good job last year, and the way things worked, he’s the left tackle going into camp to compete.”

Jones moved to left tackle halfway through last year’s OTAs and never relinquished the spot. It was one of the biggest surprises of the year, but it wasn’t like Jones was an instant hit when the regular season began. He struggled early in the year, but he steadily improved as the year went on. By season’s end he showed why Poles and the coaching staff put their faith in him. According to PFF, Jones averaged 2.4 pressures allowed per game in true pass sets over the first half of the season. In the second half that number dropped to 1.0 per game.

The biggest weakness in Jones’ game was his play against the bull rush. When opposing pass rushers drove their full force into Jones, he could be pushed backwards to collapse the pocket. Heading into the offseason, Jones planned to hit the weight room hard to add strength so that he could anchor better against the bull rush.

“He’s putting in a lot of work,” said Morgan. “His mindset’s really, really strong right now, and he’s attacked the offseason. So what he told you guys he was gonna do, he’s done it to this point.”

It’s clear the Bears are eager to see how that work will translate onto the field. Given his improvements throughout the 2022 seasons, it’s easy to see why the team would give Jones the first opportunity at left tackle this year. The team also believes the continuity will help Jones, rather than having him try to learn a new position at the outset of the summer program.

“Is it easy to go from right to left? No, it’s not easy,” Morgan said. “Can it be done? Yeah, certain people can do it. It benefits him greatly to stay over there and continue to work on the left side. The stance, the set, the calls, his eyes. All of it.”

The Bears have already started working again this year, but things will pick up later this month when they begin OTAs on May 22.

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