Dispelling 5 Common Misconceptions About Broncos' LT Garett Bolles
For a while now, there have been wild misconceptions about Garett Bolles within Broncos Country that paint him to be far worse than he is. This is not to say that Bolles is a great offensive tackle and that he doesn’t have any issues with his play.
On the contrary, Bolles has many shortcomings that will be highlighted in today's article. But his issues have been made out to be far, far worse than they are.
For that reason, I'm revealing the latest installment of Broncos Myth-Busting. It's time to dig into five big myths surrounding Bolles and his play.
Myth 1: Bolles Didn’t Face a Good Pass Rusher After Bye Week
This is an argument borne of ignorance about other teams. While not every pass rusher was great or elite, the Broncos and Bolles had to face several really good pass rushers, and it included two of the best in the NFL last year in the same game.
Those would be Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings. That was Week 11, immediately following the Broncos' bye. After that, Bolles faced Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy of the Bills, both of whom had a really good 2019 season, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram of the Chargers, who form one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL, Whitney Mercilus in Houston, Frank Clark in Kansas City, who once demolished the Broncos' O-line, Trey Flowers of Detroit, and two Raiders' rookies in Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell who had a really productive season.
While maybe not great, this collection of pass rushers deserves the respect of the opposing offensive line. During that span, Bolles allowed five total pressures.
Drew Lock getting inserted in Week 13 helped Bolles, but there was a noticeable improvement in his technique after the bye week, which also helped the left tackle play better and more consistently.
That's something Bolles will have to continue to build on alongside O-Line Coach Mike Munchak for this next season. This myth is busted.
Myth 2: Bolles Held the Offense Back
This is a myth that is quite vague and a little more difficult to argue against. Bolles did have penalties that hurt the offense or put them behind, especially early in the season, but the issues holding back the offense were far greater than just the left tackle.
This is a myth based strictly on opinion with no real empirical evidence to back it up beyond the bye. The best evidence as to who really held the offense back is what happened after a certain player was benched — Joe Flacco.
Once Flacco was removed from the equation, the Broncos' offense actually performed better and Bolles’ play also improved. That points to Flacco being the piece that actually held the offense back more than the tackle.
Myth 3: Bolles Was the Worst Broncos' OL & Worst OT in NFL
This is just completely false. Ronald Leary and Elijah Wilkinson were both far worse than Bolles was out there for the Broncos. Wilkinson was for more damaging than Bolles was in pass protection by allowing significantly more pressures and sacks than Bolles did.
As for Leary, he was penalized quite a bit which really negated big plays, more often than Bolles, and he was a horrible run blocker out there for Denver. As for the rest of the NFL, 41 blockers allowed more pressures than Bolles did on the season and a large portion of them on fewer snaps than Bolles played.
If you want to look at penalties, Houston's Laremy Tunsil drew more yellow laundry on fewer snaps, but he had a season-long quarterback to help cover his issues. Tennessee's Taylor Lewan had almost the same rate of penalties that Bolles did.
Finally, according to Pro Football Focus, Bolles was the 26th highest-graded OL overall out of 155 total linemen. Did he struggle at times? Yes.
Could he have been better? Yes. Was he the worst tackle ever, or this past year, out there? No, far from it, actually.
Myth 4: Bolles' Holding Penalties Negated Big Plays
This is a weird myth going around that doesn’t have much evidence to back it up. His penalties did take one touchdown off the board for Denver, though the Broncos went and scored a touchdown three plays later.
Another penalty took away a 20-yard gain and Denver followed that up with a first down but ended up punting on the drive after two incomplete passes from the quarterback.
There is only one additional Bolles' penalty that really hurt the Broncos. It happened on third down and on the following play, Brandon McManus missed a field goal that he may have been able to make prior to losing the yards on the penalty.
So in reality, Bolles' holding penalties only negated two big plays. The majority of his holds came on incomplete passes or runs of maybe one yard at most.
Bolles didn’t take away big plays for Denver nearly as often as Leary did. This myth is mostly busted as two big plays were negated because of Bolles holding, but it wasn’t nearly as often as the misconception makes it out to be.
Myth 5: Bolles Held After the Bye but Wasn't Called
This myth is a very convenient one. It is an easy claim to make and unless someone goes and watches the tape on every single snap, all 434 snaps after the bye week, it is hard to argue against.
To bust this myth, I did just that. All 434 snaps after the bye week and can say with confidence that this myth is busted.
On the 434 snaps, Bolles got called for three holding penalties. When watching through the other snaps, there were two possible holding calls that could’ve been called that weren’t and neither one of them was overly obvious.
Having a mobile quarterback really benefited Bolles because he didn’t have to resort to holding after an early loss in the rep. When there was a pocket statue like Flacco back there, it led to more holding penalties being called as well as more missed holding calls because Bolles was afraid of his QB getting killed if beaten.
It is also worth noting that of the two possible missed holding calls, one was an incomplete pass and the other was a run that picked up one yard. This myth is busted, but again, it is a convenient myth to promulgate because of what it takes to prove it wrong.
What we Learned Today
Bolles has plenty of issues stemming from his technique — the awareness and the penalties in particular. No question, he has to improve those areas and get better.
The Broncos sent a big message to Bolles by declining his fifth-year option. Either he improves this year and earns an extension, or he doesn’t and Denver moves on from its 2017 first-round pick.
The Broncos provided the pieces to help Lock, which also benefits Bolles and possibly makes his life a little easier. Bolles is a solid left tackle and when breaking down his play compared to other tackles, that is obvious.
Denver took a risk by declining the option because if he does step it up, the team will be looking at a contract north of the three-year, $44.25 million deal D.J. Humpries got from the Arizona Cardinals. If Bolles elevates his game in 2020 and prices himself out of Denver's reach, the Broncos could be faced with replacing two starting tackles in 2021 depending on what happens with Ja'Wuan James.