Bears continue to shuffle the offensive line during OTAs

Rookie Braxton Jones takes first-team reps at left tackle

Southern Utah offensive lineman Braxton Jones runs a drill during the NFL combine, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Indianapolis.

LAKE FOREST – The Bears continued to mix and match on the offensive line during organized team activities this week.

Head coach Matt Eberflus said the new coaching staff wants to see various combinations of linemen in order to get a read on who will succeed where, and which combinations work well together.

On Wednesday, it was rookie fifth-round draft pick Braxton Jones who worked at left tackle with the first-team offense. Second-year pro Larry Borom, who previously worked at left tackle for much of the spring, shifted over to right tackle. Last year’s second-round draft pick, Teven Jenkins, worked at right tackle with the second-string offense. Jenkins has been at right tackle during every spring practice that was open to members of the media.

“We wanted to change combinations,” Eberflus said. “And that’s not the only thing we’ve changed, from tackle to tackle. We’ve moved some receivers around. Some guys are playing X. Some guys are playing Z. We’ve adjusted some guys on the defensive line just to really find out, have a true evaluation of what’s the best fit for us going into training camp.”

This offensive line should look quite different from last year’s, both in personnel and in scheme. As the Bears implement a wide zone blocking scheme, made popular again by 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, testing the linemen and seeing how they respond figures to be a key part in the process right now.

It’s early June, which means there’s little urgency to pick five starting linemen right now. Injuries are bound to hobble the starting five at some point during the season anyway.

“The offensive line forever changes,” veteran left guard Cody Whitehair said. “You know, there’s injuries, there’s all sorts of things, but the one thing they have been apparent with us is they’re going to play the best five and that’s what we want. We want that competition. We want to bring out the best in every player.”

At this point, Whitehair and center Lucas Patrick might be the only two locks to be in the starting lineup.

At left tackle, Jones had only one noticeable mistake during Wednesday’s practice – a false start during a two-minute drill. Those types of mistakes are to be expected of a rookie getting his first reps with the starting offense. Jones is making quite a jump from FCS Southern Utah to the NFL.

Offense vs. defense: Eberflus said the Bears’ offense played well Monday during a practice that was closed to the media. The head coach counted 11 “chunk passes” from the offense. Wednesday was a much better day for the defense.

During a two-minute drill, quarterback Justin Fields completed a pass up the middle to Equanimeous St. Brown to get the offense down to the 40-yard line. After Jones’ false start on first-and-10, a pass from Fields tipped off St. Brown’s fingers and landed in the hands of safety DeAndre Houston-Carson for an interception.

Houston-Carson had another interception during 7-on-7 as well. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson and safety Jaquan Brisker had notable pass break ups in the secondary.

No fine for Flus: Eberflus said he doesn’t expect to receive a fine after his team was penalized for violating noncontact rules during OTAs. The Bears were forced to forfeit Tuesday’s practice.

Tight end Cole Kmet, who is the team’s NFL Players Association representative, said a union rep who was at a practice earlier this spring alerted the NFLPA and the league that there was an issue. Representatives from the union occasionally attend practices for all teams in order to make sure rules are being followed.

Asked if the issue was the drill or the aggressiveness of the players, Eberflus said it was the latter. Kmet said at the time that he didn’t notice anything that went too far. Defensive tackle Justin Jones added that when there’s a bunch of young players competing for roster spots, it’s bound to be competitive.

“I can’t really fault players for going too hard or being overly aggressive because this is your dream, this is what you came here for,” Jones said.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.