All eyes will be on rookie left tackle Braxton Jones in the Chicago Bears’ 2022 season-opener Sunday at Soldier Field against the San Francisco 49ers. Jones, a fifth-round pick from Southern Utah, will face off against one of the NFL’s elite pass-rushers in Nick Bosa, who ended 2021 with 15.5 sacks.
It’s not an ideal way for second-year quarterback Justin Fields to kick off his 2022 season. Even if the Bears had an established veteran at left tackle, Fields would have Bosa in his peripheral vision at all times. With Jones manning the edge, keeping tabs on the 49ers’ game-wrecker is a priority.
Fields knows the challenge facing Jones. And he’s already coming to his defense.
“I hope none of you all expect him to win every rep versus Nick Bosa in a game,” Fields said this week. “He knows he’s not going to win every rep. You’ve just got to move on and focus on the next play.”
The Bears can slow Bosa’s pursuit of Fields by establishing the run early in the game. They can also give the rookie help with a tight end and running backs in pass protection. It doesn’t matter how they give Jones help. They just have to give it to him.
“We’re going to try to help him out as much as possible,” Fields said. “It’s just being real knowing that he’s not going to win every play. That’s everyone in the league. Everyone gets got on one play, but you’ve just got to come back the next play and execute.”
How and when the Bears give Jones help will ultimately be up to offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
“You’ve got to make sure you’ve got a plan because (Bosa) is someone that can change the game,” Getsy said. “And you’ve got to do your best to make sure that you minimize that as much as you can.”
For Braxton Jones, there’s nowhere to go but up. Expectations are understandably low for him in Week 1. They would be for any rookie, let alone a Day-3 guy from a small school. But if he proves on Sunday that he has the chops to hang with one of the NFL’s elite pass-rushers, the outlook for the Chicago Bears’ 2022 season will change. Dramatically.
“I think all these players in the NFL are here for a reason, you know,” Jones told NBC Sports Chicago this week. “Obviously, when you’re going against a pass rusher like that you might be a little more alarmed, but I think even the rushers that don’t have the biggest names will get you because you aren’t preparing the same way. You have to prepare the same way for everybody.”