Why Bears GM Ryan Poles has been ‘blown away’ by Braxton Jones

When Ryan Poles selected Braxton Jones in the fifth round of this year’s NFL Draft, the idea was that he could one-day compete for a starting tackle job. As it turned out, that day came about halfway through OTAs, when Jones lined up with the 1s at left tackle. Jones has locked up the starting job, surprising not only the Bears, but Jones himself.

“I’ve been blown away by how fast he has developed,” Poles said. “There’s a lot of credit for our coaches and Chris Morgan, they’ve done an excellent job. He continues to kind of check the boxes. You go from OTAs, ‘That guy looks pretty good.’ We gotta go to training camp, we got to put pads on. We put pads on and it still does pretty well. Let’s see when the lights go on and we go to preseason, is he going to do it then? The longer you do this, you see these spikes and then did he go? He continues to climb and get better and better and better.”

Jones is far from a finished product, but he’s greatly improved from the early days of summer. Jones has cleaned up pre-snap penalties that plagued him in OTAs. He gets bullied less in pass protection and even holds his own against Robert Quinn in practice. As Week 1 approaches, Jones is no longer surprised that he’s playing with the starters, but he still appreciates what’s in front of him.

“Just gotta get better every day and continue to do my job and not let this opportunity go to waste,” Jones said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s a great opportunity to show what I can do. So I’ve got to continue to seize the opportunity and not really worry about being surprised.”

Up to this point, Jones has met his challenges and fared admirably, but his biggest test is still to come.

“Week 1, he’s going to see a big dog,” said Poles about 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa. “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? That’s going to be the next step for him and just seeing those top rushers in this league, it’s no joke. A lot of guys struggle with them, but can you battle, can you fight and have that short memory when things go bad, and do you have the toughness to stick in there?

“I’m excited for him and I’m excited for what he’s become. He has not given that spot up and he just keeps fighting and fighting and fighting. I’m proud of that kid.”

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