LAKE FOREST — It’s been a whirlwind for rookie Braxton Jones after the Chicago Bears drafted the offensive tackle in the fifth round back in April. He was quickly thrust into the starting lineup at left tackle during OTAs and has continued that role so far into training camp.
Even though he has taken on a larger role in Chicago much earlier than most expected, Jones is keeping his head down and focusing on his craft.
Always looking to improve, Jones already knows one area of his game that he must clean up.
“I’ve gotta throw my tight hands over and over again and just playing fast,” Jones said. “That’s the biggest thing … Once I get that down, and nobody’s seen me do it consistently, but once I get that done consistently, I think it will be a big jump.”
It’s a small detail, sure. But Jones understands incremental progress. The small steps forward can turn into big leaps over time.
He made this a priority during his time between the end of OTAs and the start of camp. By putting in the work during his “free time,” both physically and mentally, Jones was able to enter training camp with both feet running.
“For the playbook, and just getting install one, two and three down like really solid. That was really good for me because the way I saw it now from actually being outside of the building was a lot different and a lot clearer when I went over it again instead of it being thrown at me,” Jones said. “I’d say I took a big step in that sense and it allowed me in the beginning of camp to play a lot quicker and be on it a lot quicker. I would say one of those things was a big step. I felt like I came back in better shape.”
Despite taking reps with the first team during OTAs and coming into camp a better player, Jones’ mindset doesn’t change. He’s just trying to get better. Each and every day. And give it his all on every rep.
“Just because I’m running with the ones doesn’t mean anything changes. That might change up who’s in front of me or whatever. But that doesn’t matter. For me, it’s still the same,” Jones said.
Even with the addition of veteran tackle Riley Reiff, Jones’ attitude remains constant. Reiff came to Chicago to compete and take over his job, but still, Jones sees this just as another opportunity to grow and pick the brain of someone who has been in the league for some time.
That also means paying extra attention when the veterans take reps at his position.
Jones is taking advantage of every opportunity thrown his way. He doesn’t let the fact that he has a chance to earn a starting job deter him from his growth mindset.
“If I’m going to do something, I’m going to be the best at what I do, so when I take that mindset, I’m just trying to be the best,” Jones said. “Obviously everybody wants to start and everybody wants to play and make a lot of money. I think the best way to do that is trying to get better every day.”
Jones’ approach to his craft and willingness to put in the extra work combined with his positive mindset on simply improving every day is why the rookie has seen so much success so soon and why the 168th overall pick can become a steal of the draft.
It should also set him up for additional successes in the future. It may not happen right away. Jones may not be the Week 1 starter, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t see a bright future for himself in Chicago.
“In the future, I definitely could see myself rising as a leader.”