May 18, 2024


Bears Analysis

Shaw Local’s 2022 Bears report card: Offensive tackle

Chicago Bears offensive lineman Braxton Jones blocks for quarterback Justin Fields Sunday, Aug. 13, 2022, during their game against the Chiefs at Soldier Field in Chicago.

General manager Ryan Poles took over a Bears team with limited experience at either offensive tackle spot a year ago. He let veterans Jason Peters and Germain Ifedi walk away in free agency, leaving rookies Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins as the most experienced tackles on the roster (with a combined 10 NFL starts).

Poles truly was rebuilding this offensive line from scratch. He took a chance on Braxton Jones, a fifth-round draft pick out of Southern Utah, plus he brought in 10-year veteran Riley Reiff, whose best days are behind him but who had a ton of experience.

The result was probably better than expected. Jones started all 17 games at left tackle. Reiff eventually supplanted Borom as the starting right tackle and was solid, if not spectacular.

Here’s a look at the 2022 season for the Bears’ tackles.

Positives

Jones was the only player on the team to play every snap of offense this season. He gained crucial experience at left tackle and earned All-Rookie honors from the Pro Football Writers of America. Nobody expected a rookie from an FCS school to do what he did. Whether he’s the long-term starter at left tackle or not, he will be a part of the plan moving forward.

Reiff, who was 33 when the season started, began the year behind Borom on the depth chart at right tackle. Borom suffered a concussion in Week 7, and Reiff started the following week. Reiff wound up keeping the job and starting 10 games.

Negatives

Jenkins plummeted down the depth chart at tackle during OTAs and early in training camp. That could be a negative, depending on how you look at it, but he wound up making up for it by transitioning to a starting guard spot.

Borom lost his job at right tackle after a concussion, which seems harsh, but in reality his job may have been in jeopardy before the injury. Borom still has work to do in order to cement himself as a starting tackle in the NFL. The Bears moved him to guard late in the season, and he might be better suited in that role.

After the 53-man cutdown deadline, the Bears brought in released Raiders tackle Alex Leatherwood. Poles had nothing to lose in claiming Leatherwood off waivers. Matt Eberflus and his staff gave Leatherwood several months to work on his craft before putting him in a game. Still, the fact that Leatherwood played only 32 snaps all season doesn’t bode well.

Defining moments

1. A week before the draft, the Bears sent assistant offensive line coach Austin King to Utah for one last workout with Jones. He must’ve liked what he saw because that cemented the Bears’ interest in Jones, and they selected him days later.

2. The Bears signed Reiff days before training camp began. There was some speculation earlier in the offseason they might invest more money or draft capital in the tackle spot. Instead, Poles remained patient and found a veteran starter at the last minute.

3. Jones’ athleticism wasn’t a “moment” per se, but it was a defining characteristic of the season. It’s a big reason why Poles liked him in the first place. Jones proved highly versatile and could move out in space quickly on screen passes and whenever the offense needed to pull a tackle.

Watch how quickly he gets to the numbers on this screen pass to running back Khalil Herbert. For a 6-foot-5, 310-pound tackle, Jones can move.

Contract status

Jones, Borom and Leatherwood remain under contract. Practice squad tackle Kellen Diesch signed a future contract. Reiff and Dakota Dozier (who never played because of injury) are unrestricted free agents.

Grade: C+

Jones was something of a revelation, but the Bears still don’t have two surefire starting tackles.

Plan

Jones should start at one of the tackle spots next season. He has plenty of work to do on his game, but the potential is there for him to be a starting tackle for a while. The big question is at the other tackle spot. The Bears could invest in a veteran free agent. They have money to spend, and the position is clearly a need. Borom and Leatherwood probably won’t be starting next year.

If Poles doesn’t go the free-agent route, he could look to draft the best available tackle. That’s especially true if he trades out of the No. 1 pick and has a lower first-round pick and potentially an additional second-round pick.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.