Rookie LT Braxton Jones came out of nowhere in the Bears’ 2022 OTAs and, against all odds, he managed to become the only Chicago offensive lineman to start all 17 games in the season and was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team along with Jack Sanborn and Jaquan Brisker. For a 5th round tackle, a rookie season doesn’t get much better than that.
But Offensive Tackle in the NFL is a cutthroat position, and unfortunately for Jones he picked a rough Offensive Line to play all 17 games with — Justin Fields was sacked a league-leading 55 times in 2022 (on a staggering 14.7% of his dropbacks), and big #70 was on the field for every last one of them. The sacks weren’t all his fault, but he had plenty of growing pains as a pass-protector that cost the Bears downs in the process.
Yet as the season progressed, Braxton continually shined in the run game and proved himself to one of the Bears’ best blockers in open space. Luke Getsy clearly noticed this and leaned on Jones more each week, calling most of the Bears’ pitch/toss runs to Braxton’s side and watching his offense succeed as he did. By the end of the year, rookie Braxton Jones had asserted himself as the Bears’ de-facto run game captain and, despite injuries to his unit, continued to lead the Bears each week as they ultimately out-rushed the rest of the league.
Now a second-year pro, Braxton is already an established rushing weapon at a premium position whose current contract is cheap enough (~68th highest paid Left Tackle in the league) to afford the Bears the resources to stock talent at other positions. That’s great! But in a passing league, is a budget LT that’s great in the run game enough to succeed?
I took a deeper look into Braxton’s tape and put together a video that covers:
- Braxton’s impact in the running game
- Braxton’s growth as a pass-protector
- The schematic ways that Luke Getsy assists Jones when matched up against an elite pass rusher
- The cap/draft cost of attempting to replace him
- And much, much more
Check it out and let me know what you think!
Also: For those who don’t have time to check out a video, here’s a quick clip of Braxton on the move:
— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) July 18, 2023