Bears rookie LT Braxton Jones looking to be a cornerstone

The fifth-round draft pick from Southern Utah has had his rookie moments this season. But he’s started every game, played every offensive snap and has a chance to be a foundation piece on the Bear’s offensive line heading into 2023. “I want to be that guy.”

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Braxton Jones (70) and Justin Fields (1) celebrate a touchdown against the Vikings on Oct. 9 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Bears rookie left tackle Braxton Jones (70) has started all 15 games and played all 931 offensive snaps this season.

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Bears left tackle Braxton Jones is good for a fifth-round pick. But is he good?

That could be a big question facing general manager Ryan Poles, coach Matt Eberflus, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and offensive line coach Chris Morgan in the offseason. Jones has been a big surprise since he stepped on the practice field after the Bears drafted him 168th overall out of Southern Utah in April. By the start of training camp, he was the first-team left tackle, and he fought off a challenge from veteran Riley Reiff to keep the job.

There’s no doubt Jones has been productive in his rookie season. He’s a key part of an offense that leads the NFL in rushing and rarely is the most noticeable culprit on an offense that leads the NFL in sacks allowed.

But the Bears don’t need an overachiever at left or right tackle. They need a rock. The Bears have had plenty of tackles who were better than people thought and earned starting jobs — J’Marcus Webb, Lance Louis, Jordan Mills and 2018 Pro Bowl selection Charles Leno. But this line needs a jolt of greatness.

Jones is at least a deserving candidate to be a foundation piece on the line as Getsy’s -offense enters an all-important Year 2 in 2023.

“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,” the affable Jones said. “I want to put in the work in the offseason to be that guy and be a cornerstone for this organization.”

Elite tackles often are first-round picks, though there have been exceptions such as the Packers’ David Bakhtiari, a fourth-round pick, and the Cowboys’ Jason Peters, who was not drafted. Jones’ first developmental steps are encouraging.

“Obviously, I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Jones said. “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.

“I definitely think I’ve gotta get better in certain situations. That bull rush, obviously, has gotta clean up. That just comes with consistency, pad level and technique and stuff like that. But I definitely think I could [be that anchor], for sure.”

Morgan knew he had something almost immediately after Jones was drafted and was quick to accelerate his development by giving him bigger and bigger opportunities. So far, so good.

“From Day 1, he’s gotten in there and tried to do what everybody asks, and he works and plays hard,” Morgan said. “Now he’s started a ton of games, played a ton of reps. He had a bye [week], so he had a chance to step away, and as a rookie, when you come back, things kind of slow down. So you see the small things for him that are becoming easier. He’s recognizing some things quicker. It’s a cool growth to see.”

Jones has played all 931 offensive snaps. But the Bears need excellence, not just availability.

“I’m not here to get a badge for being a guy that’s just doing his job,” Jones said. “I want to succeed as a team, so that’s the biggest thing for me. I’ve had some ups and downs, some rough patches in certain games, not necessarily stretches or weeks of rough patches, but just certain games I need to be a little better [with] technique, pad level and being more consistent.

“But for my first year, I’ve just gotta be more consistent, and that’s the biggest thing as O-linemen. That’s how you stick around.”

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