One of the surprises for the Chicago Bears in 2022 was the play of left tackle Braxton Jones. He could be a key asset in the rebuild.
The Chicago Bears are winding down another disappointing season. They are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak and now own a 3-12 record for the season.
Hopefully, this is the last such season we’ll see for a long while going forward. The Bears have a treasure chest of assets and money to have a pretty quick rebuild. They’ll likely have north of $125 million in salary cap space, easily the highest in the NFL in 2023. They also have eight picks in the next draft. Most of them are early in each round, which makes them valuable.
The most valuable, of course, is the second overall pick they own. It could bring in a boatload of additional picks should general manager Ryan Poles decide to wheel and deal. He did that this year and converted five picks into 11. There’s no saying how much he can acquire with these picks. Keep in mind, also, that the Bears still have a chance to end up with the top overall pick if Houston gets hot. They won last week, helping the Bears inch closer to that pick.
Before Poles starts rebuilding the roster in earnest this upcoming offseason, he needs to know who on the current roster stays or goes. There are a lot of players signed to one or two-year deals, making it easier for Poles to part ways with them without a big financial obligation.
The Bears have a lot of holes to fill so Poles needs as much salary cap and draft picks as he can to do a good job. He needs to evaluate how well (or poorly) each unit performed so he knows where best to allocate his assets.
Offensive line is a big concern
One unit that has been a big concern for many years is the offensive line. Year in and year out, it seems the Bears’ line continually underperforms, due to poor play or injuries.
This year is no different. The line is once again giving up a ton of sacks. They gave up the most sacks last season with 58. This season, they allowed 50 sacks, the fourth-most in the league.
While Poles has his work cut out for him concerning the line, he did find a diamond in the rough from this year’s draft. Left tackle Braxton Jones surprised many people with his play.
Jones was the Chicago Bears’ fifth-round draft pick out of Southern Utah. He was thrown into the fire as the starter after he had a great camp. He outplayed the incumbent, Teven Jenkins, and didn’t worry about Riley Reiff.
While Jones has had his up-and-down rookie moments, he has played very well. At times he didn’t look like a rookie. He showed a high football IQ and made plays most rookies couldn’t even imagine trying.
Jones has consistently played the opposing defense’s best pass rusher week after week and has held his own. In his first start against Nick Bosa and the San Francisco 49ers, he struggled in the first half. Bosa was running circles around him and people already wanted Jones to be taken out.
The second half was different, however. Bosa was not a factor in the final 30 minutes and the Bears came back and pulled off a huge upset.
Jones has been a big part of the offensive lines’ success in the running game. With his help, the Chicago Bears have the best rushing attack in the league. they have 2,696 rushing yards, 206 more than the second-place team. That includes last week when Chicago uncharacteristically had just 80 rushing yards.
This is what happens with Jones — he might struggle for a bit but he learns from it quickly. He then makes the adjustments and performs well.
Jones shows that he is a valuable asset to the rebuild
Jones has shown that he is a valuable asset to the offensive line. Two of the most critical positions to solidify for a team’s offense are the quarterback and his blindside defender, the left tackle. The quarterback needs to lead the team. To do so, he needs to stay upright.
Teams spend a large number of dollars and high draft picks to get that right. If they can’t get it right, it sets a team back years. Just look at the recent Chicago Bears history.
There still are some concerns, however. Is Jones an overachiever or is he a cornerstone? The Bears need someone in the position who could be great and be Fields’ protector for a long time.
The experience Jones receives from this season is invaluable. He went through the gauntlet and came out of it relatively unscathed. He is one of only two linemen who played all season (Sam Mustipher being the other). Give him an offseason of work and he should come back even stronger and better than this season. This season, he was a rookie trying to find his way and working to just win a roster job. Next season, he’ll come in as the incumbent starter.
Jones doesn’t say he is the cornerstone for the Bears’ offensive line but says he wants to be the guy.
I’m [not the one] to say I’m for sure that guy because that’s not my decision to make, but I want to be that guy. I want to put in the work in the offseason to be that guy and be a cornerstone for this organization… Obviously, I’ve got a lot of work to do. But in the way I try and act around the building, I want to be here as long as possible, and I feel like I could be a cornerstone for that left tackle position.
With all that money available and all those valuable draft picks, the quarterback and left tackle might not be a big concern for Potes. He has his quarterback in Justin Fields and it appears as if he has Fields’ blindside protector.
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