The Chicago Bears had a rough night in primetime against the Washington Commanders, particularly when it came to rookie Braxton Jones and the offensive line. It was a veritable clash of contrasting philosophies. At least it was given the resources that have been invested in each group by their respective front offices.
For the Bears, led by a former offensive lineman in general manager Ryan Poles, it is a value approach with players in either their first or second year manning three of the five positions.
Jones has been asked to protect the franchise.
As the left tackle, it is Jones’ job to protect quarterback Justin Fields’ blindside. With Fields getting sacked five times and taking 12 quarterback hits against the Commanders, that did not happen and Jones had something to say about it.
“For me, at least, I know I didn’t have the best game,” Jones said after Thursday’s loss. “I’m just giving up too much ground with the bull rush…It’s not like on the edges they’re doing something crazy or very unique…it’s just kind of them sticking to what they know. We got to do a better job of being firm. Sticking to our rules, trusting our coaching.”
Bears LT Braxton Jones Gets Honest About Struggles
Death by Bull Rush
The Bears’ offensive line posted its third-worst grade of the season, per Pro Football Focus.
But they were going against a Washington front that featured three first-rounders in Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Montez Sweat with Chase Young – another first-rounder and arguably the best of the bunch – on injured reserve.
Jones is a fifth-round pick from Southern Utah. Next to him was veteran Lucas Patrick who is center but is playing out of position at left guard due to Cody Whitehair’s knee injury.
Against the Commanders, Jones and Patrick each allowed six pressures and four hurries
“I know that for me,” said Jones, “it’s just I got to throw my hands because I know I’m not the heaviest guy or strongest right now. So I’ve got to be super technical. I wasn’t that technical today. And I’m sure that’s how it is across the board. And, you know we just got to do a better job protecting.”
In terms of his technique, Jones spoke during training camp and the preseason of needing to get better at dealing with the bull rush.
Six weeks into the regular season, it remains a work in progress.
“It’s the only thing I address, honestly. I think I got beat once today for a sack, it was something other than a bull rush. He actually swiped my hands. But, other than that, it’s been all season. If I’m giving up something, it’s been a bull rush. So, you know, I attack it in practice. I gotta be better. And I know that’s what he’s gonna give me – and other guys – and weeks after weeks after weeks. So it’s just something I gotta, you know, really dial in and be better.”
The Bears are high on Jones and this was not the easiest of matchups. It is also good that he is aware of the issue and determined to work on it.
Bears OL ‘Know It’s an Issue’
So what is the feeling amongst the embattled group whenever they see their quarterback taking the kind of punishment he did on Thursday?
“We just gotta do a better job. You know, we gotta be firm. Let that guy…obviously, we can’t start off by letting him get rattled. That’s huge. When he’s back there comfortable, he’s gonna let ‘em ride. I think it’s something as an o-line we gotta address. We know it’s an issue.”
The Bears Offensive line not even giving Justin Fields a chance in the passing game. Drop back is nearly impossible. Play Action pass is built to slow down the rush and give the QB MORE TIME to throw and they don’t do that either. Fields out there fighting for his life.
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) October 14, 2022
The Bears’ offensive line ranks 26th in pass blocking on the season, per PFF.
Against Washington, Fields was only blitzed on 19% of his dropbacks but both he and the offensive line graded poorly in those moments.
“I think just being firm at the line of scrimmage. It’s not like they’re just going around us and doing some crazy stuff. I think they’re just going right through us. So we just gotta be more firm and, you know, we gotta get better, honestly.”
Food For Thought
To Jones’ point, Fields managed to complete 60% of his passes for 75 yards on the 15 (out of 27) dropbacks when kept clean. That is still far below ideal but it is better than his 16.7% completion rate when under duress. And those numbers are in-line with Fields’ production to this point of the season. He has completed 65.8% of his passes for 599 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions when given a clean pocket which has been 49.7% of the time.
Under pressure, his efficiency falls to 33.3% and he has compiled 270 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. He has had similar struggles against the blitz.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette Opens Up About Critical Miscues in Bears’ Losses
Interestingly, his interception against Washington came as he was blitzed but was not under pressure which could mean that he is anticipating pressure. In other words, does not trust his protection and that is something that falls on everyone – offensive line, head coach, and quarterback – to work out before too long.
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