It took a long time for Denver Broncos fans to embrace left tackle Garett Bolles. With a murky history of holding penalties and inconsistent play, the 2017 first-round pick silenced all of his critics (myself included) with phenomenal play in 2020.
Better late than never.
The Broncos awarded Bolles with a four-year, $68 million contract extension last season. To further reap the fruits of his labor, the Utah native earned second-team All-Pro honors from the Associated Press.
No longer considered to be a question mark on the Broncos' O-line, Bolles is expected to lead as a pillar on offense. The soon-to-be 29-year-old has started and played in 63 games for the Broncos heading into his fifth season.
On Monday, as the Broncos reconvened for OTAs, Bolles took to the virtual podium where he was asked whether the offseason approached that served him so well last year has changed.
“Nothing has changed, man. I hit the offseason [hard], and I’m the strongest and fastest I’ve ever been," Bolles said. "This was a great offseason for me. Nothing changed. I did exactly the same thing.”
In addition to their All-Pro left tackle, the Broncos' 2021 O-line is projected to be in the league’s upper echelon with guard tandem Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow. The right tackle position is up for grabs with freshly acquired free-agent veterans Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming set to duke it out.
However, the center position is poised to feature a competition between incumbent starter Lloyd Cushenberry III and rookie third-rounder Quinn Meinerz.
After Monday's practice, I had a chance to ask Bolles about his second-year teammate nicknamed ‘Cush.’
“I love ‘Cush’dearly," Bolles said. "He rolled with the punches and had ups and downs, but I felt like he responded so well. At the beginning of the year, he had some rocky moments, but at the end of the year, he felt like a vet out there leading us to charge and helping us stack a couple of wins. That’s just the type of guy that he is.”
The former third-round pick out of LSU undoubtedly has the advantage based on his 16 rookie starts last season but Meinerz — quickly becoming a fan-favorite — Meinerz from Wisconsin-Whitewater hopes to capitalize on his historic draft rise last spring. The Division III offensive lineman, known for his unorthodox wilderness workouts, should quickly develop with O-line coach Mike Munchak.
“Man, Meinerz is a stud,” Bolles answered on Monday. “I know he’s from that small little town in [Wisconsin]. I know it’s close to Canada. That funny video of him throwing the boards and doing his wacky workouts up there. The little caveman that he is. [He has] a great personality. I’ve watched film of his and done my homework on him, and I’m excited to see what he can do. He’s a tough kid that will punch you right in the mouth. The way he demands out there, the way he moves, and the ways he moves his hands, I know he has that special talent to be great. I know that he wants to be great.”
NFL fans have quickly flocked to see the unusually athletic and well-built Meinerz flaunt his enormous gut during practice. I witnessed the mountain of a man up close last spring at the Senior Bowl.
Apparently, Bolles has similarly noticed his teammate's quickly growing popularity and that famous gut.
“I know you all tease him about his big belly, and it is a big belly,” Bolles joked with the media. "I want to give him a hard time, but maybe it’s a lucky belly. If we start winning and that belly’s shining, I’m definitely going to rub it a couple of times for sure.”
Although that would be funny and bizarre, there is no tradition greater in the NFL than that of competition. That battle has already begun between two of Denver’s bright young prospects.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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