Former Bears Veteran Gets Starting Nod for Cowboys in Playoffs

Peters Cowboys Start Bears

Getty Former Bears left tackle Jason Peters will get the start for the Cowboys in their wild-card matchup with the Buccaneers on Monday, January 16.

Former Chicago Bears veteran offensive tackle Jason Peters will be getting a somewhat unexpected starting nod for the Dallas Cowboys in their wild-card game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

According to a pregame report from NFL insider Jane Slater, Peters is set to start his second game of the 2022 season for the Cowboys with Dallas tweaking its offensive line combination in hopes of best standing up against the Buccaneers’ pass rushers.

“The Dallas Cowboys will start Jason Peters at LT tonight,” Slater tweeted. “His [second] start of the season. The Cowboys’ [fifth] offensive line combo. Peters will see his [seventh] postseason appearance and is a sign the #Cowboys won’t shy away from the passing game.”

Peters — a six-time All-Pro selection — signed with the Bears in the final weeks of 2021 training camp and ended up being their top offensive lineman on the season, starting 15 games at left tackle for them. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just 28 quarterback pressures on 853 pass-blocking snaps and finished with a team-high pass-blocking grade of 77.9. With eyes on a rebuild, though, the Bears’ new regime opted not to retain the 40-year-old in 2022 free agency.

Bears Replaced Peters With Rookie Braxton Jones at LT

There were mixed opinions about the Bears’ decision to not bring back Peters during the 2022 offseason. While it made logical sense not to invest in a 40-year-old offensive lineman for a team in the process of doing a stripped-down rebuild, there was some concern that losing Peters would deprive quarterback Justin Fields of a valuable pass-blocker that he would need to show growth in his second NFL season. He was also someone who could have been easily retained on a low-cost deal for one more year.

Instead, Bears general manager Ryan Poles tabbed one of his own, hand-selected guys — fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones — to become the team’s new starting left tackle and was rewarded with an All-Rookie season from Jones that gave him a strong case for being the long-term starter at the position.

According to Pro Football Focus, Jones was the only Bears player to play every single snap in the 2022 season and finished with the best overall offensive grade (75.4) among all rookie offensive linemen who played at least 50% of offensive snaps on the year. He was also rated as the second-best run-blocker (79.4) among the 2022 rookie class, trailing only first-round center Tyler Linderbaum (84.2) in Baltimore.

Jones is now one of just three rookie left tackles over the past decade to start 16 games in a season, joining the company of David Bakhtiari (2013) and Dan Moore (2021).

“I was proud of Braxton,” Poles said during his end-of-year press conference on January 10. “He’s got a long ways to go to reach his ceiling but for his path and if you look … not many people look at the schedule for a player who goes into the offseason, Senior Bowl, combine, comes in as a fifth-round pick, battles through camp, gets a spot and then plays every single snap through the season. That’s an accomplishment right there. That tells me he’s wired right. He’s got mental toughness, roll the ups and downs. So I’m hoping that he continues to work on his body, his technique and that’s someone that we can play with and be successful with for a while.”

Could Bears Target Another OT in 2023 NFL Draft?

The Bears have a solid building block in Jones for the future, but don’t rule out the possibility of Chicago pursuing another quality offensive tackle in the upcoming 2023 NFL draft — even if that means drafting a better fit for left tackle than Jones.

The Bears are in the unique position of holding the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft and could potentially trade down to a lower spot in the first round where they are less likely to be choosing between Will Anderson Jr. and Jalen Carter — which is the outlook if they stay at No. 1 or somewhere within the first four picks. If, say, the Bears traded down to about No. 9 or No. 12 overall, an offensive tackle could be a legitimate option.

Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. are two of the top offensive tackles in the 2023 and would each have some obvious appeal to a Bears team looking to improve the protection in front of Fields as their franchise quarterback. If one of the two of them landed in Chicago, there is no reason why Jones couldn’t be asked to shift over to the right side of the line, even if it would be an adjustment.

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