Evidence Emerges Suggesting Drew Lock Turned Garett Bolles Around
Despite the addition of venerated O-line Coach Mike Munchak, Garett Bolles got out to a maddeningly inconsistent 2019 season. The Denver Broncos' starting left tackle was the same old recidivist perpetrator of mindless holding penalties.
Although Bolles didn't give up a lot of sacks, or an inordinate number of QB pressures, the oblivious lack of situational awareness he displayed his first two years in the league persisted through the first three-quarters of the season. Then something remarkable happened.
Drew Lock was inserted as the starting quarterback in Week 13, and while Bolles wasn't a perfect angel when it came to drawing the ire and attention of officials with the yellow laundry, the left tackle suddenly looked... competent. GM John Elway, in the relative blink of an eye, no longer looked foolish or misguided for investing a first-round draft pick in Bolles.
A recent tweet from Pro Football Focus highlighted the obvious; Lock's insertion as the starter for the remaining five games turned Bolles around.
My use of PFF's grades here is not meant to endorse them as the be-all, end-all. After all, I've been critical of PFF's, at times, extremely arbitrary grading system.
Rather, I'm using this tweet to illustrate that it wasn't just Mile High Huddle that said Bolles played better down the stretch and to show that, in this particular case, the grades match both the tape and the results in the standings and box score.
Bolles gave up just five pressures and one sack from Week 11 on. He would finish the 2019 season having been credited with relinquishing four sacks and 31 QB pressures, although he would finish second among offensive linemen in penalties with 17.
Bolles' improvement down the stretch went to prove the old adage that a team will know when it finds the right quarterback by virtue of that quarterback being the tide that raises all ships. The truth is, Bolles was vastly helped by Lock's quick release, elusiveness, and pocket feel.
It's amazing how the right QB can take the pressure squarely off an extremely beleaguered offensive tackle.
What it Means
Although the Broncos were encouraged by Bolles' steps forward, it wasn't enough to completely assuage the team brass of their misgivings. As a 2017 first-round pick, the Broncos held the prerogative of picking up a fifth year on Bolles' rookie contract.
The Broncos declined it, which means Bolles is now entering the final year of his contract. The good news is, with Lock poised to reprise his role as the starting QB, Bolles stands to benefit greatly in a crucial contract year.
The Broncos will be watching closely to see whether Coach Munchak's influence can continue to take hold in Bolles. It's not outside the realm of the possible that the last five games of last season were a harbinger of positive things to come for Bolles and a sign that with Lock in the fold, he's finally turned a corner.
Only time will tell.