Bears training camp risers, fallers ahead of Chiefs preseason game

·5 min read

Three risers, fallers from Bears camp ahead of preseason opener originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Through two weeks of Bears training camp, we've seen a clunky offense, a potentially better than expected defense, a trade request from star linebacker Roquan Smith, and several injuries.

Thirteen practices have given us some clarity on the first-string offensive line, the wide receiver jockeying, and perhaps spelled the end of a former second-round pick's time in Chicago.

With the preseason opener vs. the Chiefs on deck, here are three risers and three fallers from the first two weeks of camp:

Riser: Braxton Jones

Let's start with the obvious.

When the Bears signed veteran offensive tackle Riley Reiff at the start of camp, the prevailing thought was that he would be the starting left tackle, allowing Jones to sit and watch for a season before taking over in 2023.

That has not been the case.

By the time Reiff finished his veteran ramp-up period, Jones had already taken control of the first-string left tackle spot, forcing Reiff to shift to the right side.

The fifth-round pick from Southern Utah is gaining confidence and experience by the day as he battles Robert Quinn, Al-Quadin Muhammad, and Trevis Gipson daily.

Jones will get his first real NFL snaps Saturday against the Chiefs, but he's impressed the Bears with his rapid growth and should be the starting left tackle come Week 1.

"I think Braxton was a guy that is obviously a super athletic kid that we were excited about after spring ball. Then you get into the pads and there was zero intimidation," Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said. "Going against Robert Quinn your very first one-on-one pass rush, right? It's an intimidating thing. He stepped up and did a great job. He's answered the bell. He's done a really nice job us."
 
Faller: Teven Jenkins
 
We'll stick with the obvious here. The 2021 second-round pick currently finds himself fighting for a roster spot as we enter the preseason schedule.
 
Jenkins had the inside track to be the starting right tackle during the spring, but Jones usurped him, which shifted Larry Borom over to right tackle.
 
After spending the first day of camp as the extra eligible blocker in heavy formations, Jenkins missed the next seven practices with an undisclosed injury. While he was out, rumors about his immaturity and the Bears' desire to trade him swirled.
 
Jenkins has returned to practice and received some second-team reps, but most of his work has come with the threes.
 
He's too talented not to make the roster, but it's far from a sure thing at this point.
 
Riser: Tajae Sharpe

The veteran receiver spent the first week of camp on the Non-Football Injury list, but he has made the most of his opportunity since returning.
 
With Byron Pringle, N'Keal Harry, and Velus Jones Jr. all out, Sharpe has gotten most of the snaps as the No. 3 receiver alongside Darnell Mooney and Equanimeous St. Brown.
 
Sharpe ran with the one a fair amount during minicamp and has maintained a good connection with quarterback Justin Fields.
 
Fields has hooked up with Sharpe for touchdowns several times during red-zone drills. The veteran appears to have a good shot at grabbing one of the final roster spots.
 
Faller: Larry Borom
 
Speaking of young tackles who appear to have fallen out of favor with the new staff, Borom entered camp as the presumed starting right tackle.
 
Borom took the first-team snaps at right tackle for the first week of camp, but things changed when the pads came on.
 
The second-year tackle struggled in pass protection against Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson, leading to the insertion of Reiff.
 
Reiff and Borom rotated for the following four practices, but the veteran took most of the first-team snaps over the last three days and now appears to have a vice grip on the right tackle job.
 
As for Borom, he now finds himself as the No. 3 tackle on the depth chart. He'll make the roster, but he's firmly on the second team.
 
Riser: Joe Thomas
 
Roquan Smith's trade request made Thomas' stellar camp all the more meaningful.
 
With Smith on the PUP list for most of camp, Thomas and Matt Adams have been working as the linebackers in the base defense alongside MIKE backer Nicholas Morrow.
 
Head coach Matt Eberflus has said Smith will play the WILL when/if he returns, which likely would make Adams the SAM and Thomas a reserve.
 
But if Smith refuses to play and gets his trad wish, Thomas will be first in line to be the starting SAM, with Adams likely shifting to WILL.
 
Thomas has forced several turnovers in camp, catching the eye of defensive coordinator Alan Williams.
 
"Thomas, he's still doing a great job," Williams said. "Actually, he's turning the football over at a high rate, so when you can do that, that equals wins."

Even if Smith does sign a contract extension with the Bears, Thomas' strong camp should make them confident in their linebacker depth.

Faller: Tavon Young

The Bears signed Young to a one-year contract this offseason with the belief that he would be their starting slot corner.

That vision has quickly evaporated.

Young split reps during mandatory minicamp with Thomas Graham Jr. However, Kyler Gordon started taking first-team nickel reps when camp opened, and the Bears' staff has gushed about the rookie's ability to play inside.

Gordon has missed the last six practices with a "day-by-day" ailment, but Young was unable to take advantage of the first-team reps as he also has missed the last several practices.

The Bears still are searching for the right corner combination. But at the moment, it looks like Gordon will be the starting nickel with Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor on the outside.

Young and Graham, who also has been out with an injury, now find themselves fighting to secure a backup spot on the Bears' roster unless they can get healthy and make a move later in August.

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