Bears' Third-Year Offensive Lineman Named Breakout Candidate for 2024

Pro Football Focus named Braxton Jones as a potential 2024 breakout candidate on the offensive line. Let's discuss what that would mean for the Bears' offensive line.
Dec 31, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA;  Chicago Bears offensive lineman Braxton Jones (70) blocks against the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 31, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears offensive lineman Braxton Jones (70) blocks against the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports / Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past two seasons, one of the biggest issues for the Chicago Bears has been protecting the quarterback. Since 2022, the Bears offensive line has allowed 108 sacks (50 in 2023 and 58 in 2022). While former quarterback Justin Fields shoulders some of the blame for those sacks, the offensive line is still responsible for many of them.

Entering this season, the Bears offensive line is nearly identical to what it was last season besides center.

This season, Coleman Shelton or Ryan Bates will be the Bears starting center instead of Lucas Patrick or Cody Whitehair. The rest of the offensive line includes second-year right tackle Darnell Wright, right guard Nate Davis, left guard Teven Jenkins, and left tackle Braxton Jones.

On paper, Wright, Davis, Jenkins, and Jones seem like they would form at least a decent offensive line. However, questions and concerns surround each of these players.

In Wright's case, how much improvement will he show in his second season? As a rookie, Wright allowed seven sacks and had 11 penalties in 1,127 snaps. If he can cut the sacks and penalties in half during his second season, that would be a major improvement.

The major concern for Davis is the availability and consistency of play. Last offseason, Davis barely participated in training camp due to a death in the family. While this is understandable, he ended up not playing well during the season.

In 11 out of 17 games Davis played, he accumulated six penalties and one sack and looked like a bad signing by the Bears. So far, the pattern seems to be continuing this offseason with Davis, as he didn't participate in the mandatory minicamp.

Hopefully, he breaks the cycle and doesn't miss much of training camp.

Similar to Davis, the concern with Jenkins is availability. Despite three seasons in the NFL, Jenkins has yet to play a full season. However, when Jenkins is on the field, he is the Bears' best offensive lineman by far.

Jenkins is a dominating force that lays out defensive linemen and sets the tone for the Bears offense. If he can stay healthy for a full season, Caleb Williams should have no issue in the left middle of the offensive line.

Heading into this season, Jones needs to cement himself as the future for Bears at left tackle. The former fifth-round pick went from allowing 12 penalties and seven sacks in 17 games as a rookie to nine penalties and two sacks in 11 games last season. Although Jones' sacks allowed dropped in 2023, he gave up 32 quarterback pressures.

Jones's pressures given up contributed to Pro Football Focus giving him a lower overall blocking grade of 68.8 in 2023, down from the 75.4 grade he received in 2022. Although Jones's overall blocking grade dropped in 2023, he has proven to be a solid offensive lineman.

Now, the question becomes whether Jones has the upside to become an elite lineman in the NFL.Pro Football Focus listed Jones as a potential breakout lineman in 2024. If Jones can break out this season, then there will be no denying that the Bears found a late-round gem at left tackle.

Bears News: Braxton Jones Predicted To Have Breakout Year in 2024

"Jones wasn’t helped by the play of Justin Fields, even if he was occasionally bailed out on individual plays. Fields could certainly escape the occasional quick pressure, but he was also the architect of a lot of pressure and held onto the ball longer than any other player in the game, stressing the protection in front of him.

With a new quarterback behind him, Jones may look significantly better in Year 3 and will hopefully be healthy once again, showing a true ceiling of what he can become at this level."

Sam Monson of PFF

While it makes sense for PFF to have a standard rating system for each player in situations like Jones', it is a bit unfair. Offensive linemen can only do so much to protect a quarterback when they fail to get rid of the ball on time.

Despite acknowledging that fact in the above quote, PFF believes Jones was a worse overall player in 2023 than he was as a rookie.

Some Bears fans agreed with PFF's assessment of Jones last season and wanted to replace him by drafting an offensive lineman this year.

However, that didn't happen, the Bears chose to draft a receiver with their ninth overall pick. The Bears have faith that Jones will break out this coming season.

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