The Chicago Bears aren’t thinking about 2023. At least the coaches and players aren’t. The team is 1-1 with a chance to reach 2-1 with a win over the winning Houston Texans on Sunday. However, GM Ryan Poles and his scouts are already formulating their plans for next off-season. He is only in Year 1 of rebuilding this roster into one he hopes can contend for a championship. Next spring will be an important one. The Bears will have the most salary cap space of any NFL team and a 1st round pick.
When the season began, most people agreed on what the biggest need on the roster would be. That was the offensive line. Justin Fields took too many sacks last year, and the Bears didn’t do much to fix the problem this past off-season. So it has probably come as a shock to hear the group ranks first in the NFL in pass block win rate while also having paved the way for 180 yards rushing last week. Some think the group might not be as terrible as many predicted.
Much of this is thanks to the emergence of two names: Braxton Jones and Teven Jenkins.
Asked for an example of a time when he had his eyes in the right place, Teven Jenkins referenced this play.
“My eyes went straight to Larry (Borom), and that’s where it has to be,” Jenkins said. “It has to be because he’s counting on me to be there if he gets an inside move.” pic.twitter.com/uLZcMhOThE
— Sean Hammond (@sean_hammond) September 23, 2022
This is a good example how technique can help an OT anchor against a bullrush. Braxton Jones stays square & upright, catching the defender with good hand placement and is able to anchor. Larry Borom opens his hips & bends at the waist and is pushed back into Justin Fields #Bears pic.twitter.com/eftibc4i5M
— Chicago Football Connection (@CFCBears) September 20, 2022
Chicago Bears may have building blocks in place.
It is early in the season, but one can’t help but be impressed by those two. Jones is a 5th round rookie out of Southern Utah. He’s faced Nick Bosa, Preston Smith, and Rashan Gary in the first two weeks of his career. Allowing only five pressures across those games has to be considered an encouraging sign for his future. His size and athleticism stand out already. It looks like his technique is coming along nicely as well.
The bigger surprise is Jenkins. Many left him for dead after getting demoted in OTAs at right tackle. Chicago Bears coaches decided to give him a look at guard instead. He flashed enough in the preseason to get the starting node. Now through two games, he has a case for being one of the ten best run blockers at his position in the NFL.
If those two continue to ascend over the next few months, the Bears will have two building blocks in place for their offensive line. That doesn’t include Lucas Patrick, who remains in his prime and should fit in nicely at center. It means Poles could shift his focus to other positions of need come draft time.
Wide receiver and defensive tackle sit atop that list.
Jordan Addison in space is a tough assignment for defenders pic.twitter.com/GeVoZ5JPBU
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) September 18, 2022
Early projections have 14 offensive linemen ranked in the top 100 prospects for 2023. Conversely, there are eight wide receivers and 11 defensive tackles. So if the Bears wanted to wait on drafting more O-line help, they could. Justin Fields needs a surefire go-to target in the receiving game. On the other hand, the Bears’ interior defensive line is woefully underpowered. Imagine landing Jalen Carter from Georgia or Jordan Addison out of USC. Either could be instant impact players for this team.
This is why the Bears were anxious to play the young guys. They knew there was a possibility some of them could morph into legitimate starters. Jenkins and Jones have 15 more games to solidify their spots. If they succeed, it changes how everything could develop next April.
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