Even Ryan Poles Can’t Believe How Fast Braxton Jones Is Developing

When it comes to discussing the biggest surprises of the 2022 offseason, there are plenty. The Chicago Bears trade for Khalil Mack is one of them. GM Ryan Poles not selecting a wide receiver with his first two picks is another issue. However, everything pales in comparison to what’s happening on the offensive line. It’s not Teven Jenkins defending the paint, or Larry Borom beating Riley Reiff at right tackle. It was Braxton Jones who asked for the left tackle position.

This situation doesn’t make any logical sense. Jones was drafted by Chicago in the fifth round last April. He came from a smaller program in southern Utah and was 1-10 the year before. Many even felt his 2020 season was better than his 2021 season. A strong Senior Bowl week did help his stock, but it’s nothing special. That’s enough for the Bears to confirm that he has the kind of ability they want. The Poles are happy to have him.

However, even he hadn’t imagined how fast this newcomer would rise.

Don’t forget that the Pole himself is a former attacking striker. He has a trained eye for these positions. Even his accidental discovery is a testament to how much work Jones put in. Clearly the rookie is smart. He is articulate and has a clear understanding of his work. Then there’s the big body, long arms and athletic feet. During the OTA, everything starts to fall into place.

The coaches saw him in training, so they gave him a chance to attack in the first team. He hasn’t given up the starting spot since then. His preseason performance further validated the decision. While it wasn’t perfect, he went head-to-head with some talented passers, including former professional bowler Frank Clark, and didn’t hold back. People need to understand that things like this are not normal for a 5th-round pick.

Ryan Poles’ transformation of offensive line space is fascinating.

Now, two new faces will appear in the starting lineup: Jones and Lucas Patrick. The real change comes in the depths. Seventh-round pick Ja’Tyre Carter is the primary backup at the guard, while last season’s former first-round pick Alex Leatherwood, who recently waived his acquisition, joins the mix from Las Vegas. This group has a lot of youth and strengths. Not to mention a lot of athleticism.

It’s amazing to think Jones is the one leading the charge. If things break the Bears’ path, and if Jenkins, Borom and Leatherwood flourish, they could potentially define a future starting offensive line. Ryan Poles has to be comfortable with where he is. While he’s confident in his plans, he can’t imagine Jones being the Bears’ left tackle in April. He just saw a gifted athlete that could develop into something more.

It’s more than luck that things happened so quickly.

This offers hope for the future of bears. If the Pole can piece together such an encouraging draft class without the help of a first-round pick, it’s unclear what he will accomplish in the next few offseasons.

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