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Chalk Talk: Could Braxton Jones start season opener?

Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on

Do you think that Braxton Jones could be ready to start at left tackle in Week 1?
Philip G.
Eastvale, California

It's certainly possible that rookie fifth-round pick Braxton Jones opens the season as the Bears' starting left tackle. The 6-5, 310-pounder took advantage of an opportunity to work with the No. 1 offense at left tackle over the final six offseason practices, impressing coaches with his athleticism and ability. With that said, the difference between non-contact practices in the spring versus padded workouts in training camp cannot be overstated. So, I wouldn't draw any conclusions based on what transpired in OTAs and minicamps. Big-boy football doesn't begin until training camp, and that's when we'll see whether Jones can perform well enough to earn a starting job. I imagine the Southern Utah product will get plenty of reps in both practices and preseason games to prove himself. Here's what offensive line coach Chris Morgan said that he saw from Jones during the offseason program: "The things you saw on tape. You saw the length. You saw the athleticism. You saw the natural pass protector. I'm just excited to see those things when the pads come on. Braxton's done a nice job." Jones, by the way, was named first-team All-Big Sky in each of his final two seasons at Southern Utah, starting all six games during the 2021 spring season and all 11 contests last fall.

What's up with Thomas Graham Jr.? I was impressed in his limited snaps last year and was begging to see more of him. I haven't heard much chatter about him this offseason. I'd love to get an update on how he is doing.
Ramin S.
Asheville, North Carolina

Bears defensive backs coach James Rowe told reporters earlier this month that he liked what he was seeing from Thomas Graham Jr. at both the cornerback and nickel back positions. While the presumption is that Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon will start at cornerback this season, NFL teams need depth at that position. Graham is definitely capable of providing that while also competing at nickel back. Rowe has been especially impressed with Graham's work ethic and football intelligence, saying: "He puts in extra time. He comes up and meets with David Overstreet, who coaches our nickels mostly. Very smart player. He is able to handle the workload outside and inside. He is intent on being good, and we love what we see from him so far."

I know you probably had a chance to pick the brain of John "Moon" Mullin. Could you tell us a "behind the scenes" story to help us appreciate what he meant to the Bears and people who covered the Bears?
Neil A.
Portland, Oregon

Thanks for asking about Moon, Neil. (I knew him for 30-plus years and don't think I ever called him John.) Moon and I had a special bond in part because we both started covering the Bears in 1992, me for the Bear Report newspaper and him for the Daily Herald. We spent countless days, months and years together at practices, games, training camp and on road trips. He was one of the most interesting and kind people I ever knew. He had so many interests—bicycling, kayaking, traveling, wine—and could discuss just about anything. He wrote books, he taught college journalism classes. He did it all. All of the stories that have been written about Moon by his longtime colleagues this week paint the same picture. All you need to know about him is that last week when I went to visit him in the hospital, I noticed that everyone in the waiting room had the same room number on their guest pass. They were all there to see Moon. He fought valiantly against pancreatic cancer and outlived projections by nearly two full years. Losing him has profoundly affected me. Since he passed away, I set up one outing to see four or five of my old neighbors and another with a handful of guys I've been friends with since third grade. I think everyone should do the same. Life is too precious and far too short. To think that we've lost two longtime Bears reporters within the last six months or so in Moon and Jeff Dickerson is heartbreaking. I miss them both.

Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week. Email your question to Larry.

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