Bears’ Braxton Jones ready to face ‘the real deal’ in Nick Bosa
How he fares will be a reflection of new general manager Ryan Poles, play-caller Luke Getsy and the Bears’ player-development capabilities.
Bears offensive tackle Braxton Jones stopped to think in front of his locker this week. While he tried to come up with the best pass-rusher he faced at small-college Southern Utah last year, someone offered to pull up the FCS school’s 2021 schedule on their phone.
Jones settled on defensive lineman Travez Moore, who played for Arizona State when the Sun Devils beat visiting Southern Utah 41-14 in the season opener.
“He was really quick and shifty,” Jones said.
Moore, an LSU transfer who is in his fifth season this year, has 2 ½ career sacks in college.
He’s no Nick Bosa.
Jones will find that out in the season opener Sunday when he lines up across from the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end and 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
How he fares will be a reflection of new general manager Ryan Poles, play-caller Luke Getsy, and the Bears’ player-development capabilities.
And, of course, Jones himself.
Jones is the first Bears rookie left tackle to start in Week 1 in 30 years. His development has been steeper, and quicker, than even Poles expected when he drafted him in the fifth round. If Poles is right and Jones can be a long-term answer at one of the most important positions in the sport, the Bears’ rebuilding timeline will fast-forward.
“We thought he definitely had starter potential and he could develop,” Poles said last week. “I’ve been blown away by how fast he has developed.
“Now that next phase is Week 1 — he’s going to see a ‘big dog.’ And I told him, too, there’s going to be ups and downs, and I think part of being a really good player is the short memory. How can you overcome some of those bad plays?”
Sunday won’t be perfect.
“I hope none of y’all expect him to win every rep vs. Nick Bosa in a game,” quarterback Justin Fields said. “I mean, he knows he’s not going to win every rep. At the end of the day you just gotta move on and focus on the next play.
“So we’re gonna try to help him out as much as possible. But yeah, just being real, knowing that he’s not going to win every play. That’s everyone in the league. Everyone gets ‘got’ on one play, but you’ve just got to come back the next play and execute.”
Jones knows that.
“It’s just one play at a time for me — looking at the play, diagnosing it and doing everything I can on that one play,” he said. “And then that play is over? ‘OK, let’s go.’ ”
How well he can forget the previous play will be a reflection of offensive line coach Chris Morgan’s techniques. The Bears have praised Morgan’s teaching abilities, even citing him as a reason they believe they can get more out of former first-round pick Alex Leatherwood than the Raiders ever could.
Morgan has educated Jones about Bosa without making the matchup intimidating.
“I don’t think you make a big deal,” Morgan said. ‘‘But you study and learn about the player inside and out. You just prepare.”
Guard Cody Whitehair, who made his own rookie debut lined up against the great Vince Wilfork, said being at home should help settle Jones’ nerves.
“There’s going to be some rookie-year jitters out there,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is staying calm.”
Jones spent all offseason matched up against Robert Quinn, who set the franchise’s sacks record last year with 18½.
Still, they’re different kinds of pass rushers. No one in the world gets lower when he turns the corner than Quinn does.
“In my mind, they can be two different players,” Jones said. “But they can also do the same thing. It does help. Just confidence, right?”
His new play-caller can help build that confidence. How much help Jones gets — from tight ends and running backs, and from screens and counters — will show just how creative Getsy can be in his first-ever NFL game as a play-caller.
“It’s a great challenge for him,” Getsy said. “Any time you play someone of the caliber as Mr. Bosa presents for you, you’ve got to have a plan. Regardless of who your right or left tackle are, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got a plan. Because he’s someone that can change the game, and you’ve gotta do your best to make sure that you minimize that as much as you can.’’
Getsy’s Packers never could. Bosa has four sacks in four career games against Green Bay — with three coming in two playoff contests.
“He’s the real deal,” Getsy said.
Maybe Jones is, too.
On Sunday, the Bears will start to find out.