Braxton Jones

Bears Activate LT Braxton Jones Off IR

More help is on the way for the Bears’ offensive line as a senior writer for the team, Larry Mayer, reports that Chicago has activated second-year offensive tackle Braxton Jones from injured reserve. After activating starting guard Teven Jenkins a month ago, the left side should continue to improve with the return of last year’s starting left tackle.

Jones became a Week 1 starter as a rookie last season despite making the jump to the NFL from Division I-FCS school Southern Utah. The fifth-round pick adjusted well, starting all 17 games and performing admirably. His sophomore season had a rockier start, though, as a Week 2 neck injury prompted the Bears to exercise excess caution and place him on IR.

In his place, Chicago has returned to a formerly displaced starter in Larry Borom, but through six starts in relief, Borom has consistently ranked in the bottom ten of qualifying NFL tackles in rankings provided by Pro Football Focus. The team took Tennessee rookie Darnell Wright in the first round of this year’s draft but placed him at right tackle, showing their confidence in Jones as their blindside blocker moving forward.

Even now, with Jenkins and Jones finally reuniting with the first-team unit, the Bears’ offensive line is still a bit banged up as starting right guard Nate Davis has already been declared out for the third straight week. Lucas Patrick, who has started in Davis’ place to past two games, will likely hear his name called to play with the starters once again.

In order to make room for Jones on the active roster, the Bears waived fellow 2022 draftee Doug Kramer, who was drafted a round after Jones last year. Kramer spent his entire rookie season on IR and then spent the first six weeks of this season on IR before being activate for Week 7. After only playing two snaps, Kramer sees his way off the roster. If he clears waivers, Chicago may choose to bring him back on the practice squad.

Speaking of the practice squad, the Bears also made the decision to promote linebacker Micah Baskerville from the practice squad as a standard gameday elevation for tomorrow. If he sees the field, it will be the undrafted LSU rookie’s NFL debut.

Bears Designate LT Braxton Jones, DL Khalid Kareem For Return

Already using the IR-return system to bring back Teven Jenkins, the Bears are moving closer to their left tackle returning. The team designated Braxton Jones for return Wednesday, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets.

This will start Jones’ 21-day activation clock. The second-year blocker landed on IR due to a neck injury after Week 2. He has been eligible to come back since last week, and given the nature of this injury, it represents a positive the Bears started the clock today. Jones not being activated in three weeks would lead him to season-ending IR. The Bears also designated defensive lineman Khalid Kareem for return from IR.

Jones quickly acclimated to the pro game, going from a fifth-round pick out of a Division I-FCS school (Southern Utah) to becoming the Bears’ Week 1 left tackle as a rookie. Jones started all 17 games as a rookie but encountered a speedbump this year. While last year’s No. 168 overall pick did not miss a snap in Week 2, the neck injury he played through prompted the Bears to exercise caution and stash him on IR.

Chicago has used swing tackle Larry Borom in place of Jones. A former starter whom Riley Reiff displaced at right tackle during the 2022 season, Borom now has 22 career starts on his resume. A fifth-round pick out of Missouri in 2021, Borom has offered experience opposite rookie right-sider Darnell Wright. Pro Football Focus, however, has rated Borom outside the top 60 at tackle this season. PFF rated Jones as a top-20 tackle in 2022.

Jones’ return will stand to help Justin Fields, though the Bears’ blindside bastion may be back before their starting quarterback. Fields is not expected to play in Week 8, leaving Tyson Bagent on track to start another game. The first Division II-developed QB to make an NFL start since 2010, Bagent could play behind the Bears’ five first-string O-linemen. The Bears have five IR activations remaining this season.

Bears Move LT Braxton Jones To IR

The Bears now have two starting offensive linemen on IR. Braxton Jones joined Teven Jenkins on the injured list Wednesday. The second-year left tackle sustained a neck injury.

Jones has started all 19 NFL games he has played, going from Division I-FCS-produced fifth-round pick to the Bears’ Week 1 blindside starter last year. He now must miss at least four contests. Larry Borom, a previous Chicago starter, and Ja’Tyre Carter reside as replacement options, per Matt Eberflus.

Not only has Jones never missed a game, he has been on the field for every Bears offensive snap since debuting last year. But the Southern Utah alum’s career will pause for the time being. While Jenkins was once viewed as a left tackle, Jones has since taken over the role. The guard move has proven effective for Jenkins, with the 2021 second-rounder showing far more promise inside. Jenkins is out until at least Week 5; Wednesday’s transaction will sideline Jones until at least Week 7.

The Bears, who also played without free agent signing Nate Davis in Week 2, have Jones and Jenkins installed as staples on a reconstructed O-line. Jenkins is set to move to left guard upon return, joining Cody Whitehair in changing positions. Though, Whitehair — tabbed to move back to center — is still at guard due to Jenkins’ injury. The Bears have used 2022 free agency pickup Lucas Patrick at center to start the season. Jones, however, was the only Bears starting blocker asked to stay in the same position he played last season.

A 2021 fifth-round pick out of Missouri, Borom has 17 starts on his NFL resume. The Bears have primarily used Borom at right tackle, though he did not hang onto the gig to close last season. Riley Reiff replaced Borom during the 2022 slate, and even after Reiff departed in free agency this year, Wright coming off the board at No. 10 overall gave him a clear path to the first-string gig. Carter, a 2022 seventh-rounder, filled in for Davis last week but has only played in four career games.

To replace Jones on their 53-man roster, the Bears signed tackle Aviante Collins off their practice squad. Despite entering the NFL as a 2017 UDFA, Collins has played in just seven career games. He most recently saw time as a Cowboys backup last season.

NFC North Notes: Hooker, Bears, OL, Packers

Hendon Hooker‘s age (25) likely served as one of the factors for his fall into Round 3. The ACL tear the Tennessee product sustained in November undoubtedly led to him tumbling out of the second round, his widely viewed floor. The Lions now have a developmental quarterback who, despite being drafted seven years after Jared Goff, is barely three years younger than the Detroit starter. Dan Campbell did not view Hooker’s age as a major issue.

We did go into this offseason saying that we wanted to bring in some competition at quarterback,” Campbell said during an appearance on Green Light with Chris Long podcast (h/t Pro Football Talk). “We didn’t know exactly where that might be, who that would be at the time, but we did like Hooker. We knew he was coming off the injury, but there was something about him that was appealing. He’s very mature; he looks the part; he’s got a big arm. H’s just got to learn to play in the NFL. He’s a pro, now, and I like the fact that he was older. We all kind liked the fact that he was older. I think you want your quarterback to be more mature.”

The Lions have begun discussions on a Goff extension. For now, the third-year Detroit starter is tied to his Rams-constructed deal that runs through 2024. Although Hooker should not be viewed as an heir apparent just yet, his rookie deal runs through 2026. Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • The Bears are set to hold a center competition between Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick. GM Ryan Poles said he is comfortable with either the longtime guard — who began his NFL career as a center — or the 2022 free agency pickup at center, Courtney Cronin of tweets. Whitehair, 31 in July, has started 107 games for the Bears, who drafted him in the 2016 second round. He spent the first three seasons of his career at center and has been on the radar to move since the Nate Davis free agent signing. A two-year Packers starter, Patrick started only five Bears games during an injury-plagued 2022 season.
  • Chicago will also move Teven Jenkins from right guard to left guard, Cronin adds (on Twitter), to accommodate Davis. The free agent pickup worked as the Titans’ starting right guard from 2019-22. Jenkins will soon move to a fourth O-line position. The Bears tried him at both tackle spots and dangled him in trade talks last year, but they saw the 2021 second-rounder show promise at guard last season. The other new Bears full-timer up front last season, Braxton Jones, is not moving from left tackle. Despite the addition of first-rounder Darnell Wright, Bears O-line coach Chris Morgan said (via Cronin) the team will keeping Jones at left tackle going into training camp. Wright logged more starts at right tackle (27) than left tackle (13) at Tennessee.
  • Set to hold their rookie minicamp later this week, the Lions will arrange for XFL return man Darrius Shepherd to try out. The XFL announced Shepherd, who also caught 48 passes for 519 yards with the St. Louis BattleHawks this season, will attend the Lions’ rookie camp. The 27-year-old wideout, a former UDFA out of North Dakota State, played for the Packers from 2019-20 but did not see NFL game action over the past two years.
  • One of the signees from this year’s International Pathway Program, the PackersKenneth Odumegwu, has never played organized football, Matt Schneidman of The Athletic tweets. The program, which expanded to two divisions (NFC North, AFC West) for the first time this year, provides an extra practice squad spot for an international player.

Bears Searching For O-Line Help?

The Bears’ offensive line has generated a number of questions this offseason, and resolutions have not come just yet. Buzz around the NFL connects the team to pursuing outside help in trades, Adam Jahns of The Athletic writes (subscription required).

An effort to obtaining guard help, in particular, has circulated, per Jahns, even though Teven Jenkins may be moving close to becoming the starter at right guard. The former second-round pick has gone from tackle to trade rumors to guard this offseason, but Jeremy Fowler of notes the Bears have been pleased by the second-year blocker’s transition thus far (Twitter link). The team also signed veteran Michael Schofield, who could be a backup at multiple spots given his tackle past, just before training camp.

Chicago also added Riley Reiff at the start of camp, but Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes the veteran has ceded the first-string right tackle spot to Larry Borom — an eight-game 2021 starter. The latter, a 2021 fifth-round pick, has worked opposite fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones in recent days. Despite being a rookie out of Division I-FCS Southern Utah, Jones is being given “every opportunity” to win Chicago’s blindside job, though Biggs wonders if the two young blockers are competing against one another for a spot opposite Reiff.

Reiff, 33, counts just $3MM against Chicago’s cap, but that amount is fully guaranteed. No guarantees are present in Schofield’s veteran-minimum deal. Reiff has started 139 career games, working mostly as a left tackle. Although, he did slide to the right side to accommodate Taylor Decker in 2016 and play RT in Cincinnati last season.

The two other veterans in this mix — Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick — are not vying for roles. Whitehair is locked in as Chicago’s left guard, and Patrick — one of a few ex-Packers OC Luke Getsy brought with him this offseason — is in place at center. Patrick, however, is still recovering from thumb surgery. He is not a lock to be ready by Week 1, with Biggs adding the Bears expect him back sometime in September. Patrick being sidelined into the regular season could intensify Chicago’s interest in adding interior help.

Holding the No. 7 waiver priority spot, the Bears will be in a good position to land O-linemen Wednesday — after teams’ rosters are trimmed from 80 to 53 — but new GM Ryan Poles looks to be seeing what it will take to add a veteran upgrade ahead of that point.

Latest On Bears’ Offensive Line

Previously a possibility at left tackle, Riley Reiff now looks to be settling in on the right side. The Bears moved the longtime NFC North left tackle-turned-Bengals RT off the blind side recently, with Courtney Cronin of noting rookie Braxton Jones has taken most of the left-side reps over the past several days.

Reiff, 33, played right tackle with the Bengals last season, prior to going down with a mid-December ankle injury that shelved him for the team’s unlikely Super Bowl run, and moved to the right side in 2016 to accommodate Lions first-round pick Taylor Decker. In every other season, Reiff has primarily been a left tackle.

Jones and Reiff starting would leave Chicago with two new tackle starters. The team’s top 2021 left tackle, Jason Peters, remains a free agent. The player the previous regime hoped would commandeer that post, Teven Jenkins, has not done so. The 2021 second-round pick has battled injuries throughout his career. While Jenkins has returned to practice, he has lined up with the Bears’ second- and third-string lines since doing so, Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic tweets.

As Jones began to show starter readiness during the Bears’ offseason program, Jenkins has already popped up in trade rumors. The Bears chose Jones 168th overall out of Division I-FCS Southern Utah. This would obviously be a big jump from his 2021 gig.

Larry Borom worked as Chicago’s primary right tackle last year, but the 2021 fifth-round pick is playing behind Reiff presently. Pro Football Focus graded Borom outside its top 60 tackles last season. Although O-line development usually takes some time, the Bears’ new coaching staff may be prepared to let the Mizzou product learn from the bench behind Reiff (139 career starts). Borom has been working at both tackle spots, suggesting a potential path as the team’s swing backup.

The team exited the 2020 season with one of the league’s most stable tackle tandems, with Charles Leno and Bobby Massie having started together for five years. The Bears, however, released Leno and did not re-sign Massie during the 2021 offseason. Leno is now with Washington, tied to an extension signed earlier this year, while Chicago searches for long-term replacements. The Bears are not expected to contend this season, but Justin Fields preparing for his first full campaign as the team’s starting quarterback certainly makes tackle performance important through a longer-term lens.

Additionally, late-July pickup Michael Schofield is ticketed to be the team’s top right guard, Cronin adds. Mainstay Cody Whitehair remains the Bears’ other guard starter, while ex-Packer Lucas Patrick is poised to be the Bears’ new center. A former Super Bowl starter at right tackle with the Broncos, Schofield has been a serviceable guard in the years since. The Chargers used him as a guard starter in 49 games over the past five years.

Bears OL Teven Jenkins Finishes Minicamp With Second-String Offense

Bears OL Teven Jenkins began practicing with Chicago’s second-team offense towards the end of OTAs, and that continued throughout the club’s mandatory minicamp, per Kevin Fishbain and Adam Jahns of The Athletic (subscription required). Meanwhile, Braxton Jones has been operating as the first-string left tackle, with 2021 fifth-rounder Larry Borom at RT.

Jenkins, the No. 39 overall pick of the 2021 draft, was originally viewed as a future fixture on the blindside. Unfortunately, he was forced to undergo back surgery last August, and he ultimately appeared in just six games (two starts) as a rookie.

Although both Jenkins and Borom were selected by the Bears’ prior regime, the new coaching staff appeared plenty content to move forward with them as their first-stringers — Jenkins at RT and Borom at LT — just a couple of weeks ago. So it is notable that Jenkins has been demoted in favor of Jones, a rookie Day 3 selection.

Naturally, head coach Matt Eberflus downplayed the significance of the move. “We’re going to finish off the minicamp with this alignment, and then we’ll decide, ‘Hey, we like this alignment, that alignment,’ or, like I said, ‘(We) don’t like either one; let’s go with a new one,'” he said. “So we’re just assessing guys’ talents, assessing their skill level and going forward from there.”

With three unproven options vying for jobs as OL bookends in support of a second-year quarterback, Justin Fields, there is certainly plenty of logic in trying different alignments, particularly in OTAs and minicamp. But in a separate piece, Fishbain and Jahns suggest that there is more to Jenkins’ current status than Eberflus is letting on. Jahns posits that, if the Bears simply wanted to try Borom out on the right side, they could have shifted him to the second team to give him a look while keeping Jenkins with the first-team offense at RT, where he had been penciled in for months. Indeed, OL continuity is meaningful, even in spring work, and it appears that Jenkins is simply not performing at a high enough level right now.

Obviously, the alignment for the start of training camp will be particularly telling. While Eberflus was non-committal when asked if either Borom or Jenkins could see time at guard, both players lined up exclusively at tackle in practices that were open to the media.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/6/22

Here are the latest draft pick signings:

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears 

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

  • DB Tariq Woolen (fifth round, Texas-San Antonio)
  • LB Tyreke Smith (fifth round, Ohio State)
  • WR Bo Melton (seventh round, Rutgers)
  • WR Dareke Young (seventh round, Lenoir-Rhyne)

Washington Commanders