Dispelling 5 Common Misconceptions About Broncos' LT Garett Bolles

Erick Trickel

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.

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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. 

Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel and @MileHighHuddle. 

Comments (45)
No. 1-21
broncofan55555
broncofan55555

Your article makes me wonder why the Broncos did not extend Bolles. Given the cost and value of LTs, I thought they would keep him for at least one more year on a cost controlled contract.

Gandalf the orange
Gandalf the orange

Good point about Flacco. It seemed like his seven step drop was too deep and he held the ball too long resulting in a sack. This was especially true on a 3rd down when the team was in field goal range, which resulted in getting pushed out of field goal range. Flacco should have thrown the ball away and preserved the field position. Those are points that could have won some games. Bolles did improve as the Season progressed.

SpokaneBronco
SpokaneBronco

Bolles has truly gotten a bad rap from the fans and it may have influenced the Broncos not picking up his option. Let's cut the guy some slack. 26 out 155 is certainly much better than what the fans have given him credit for.

Mc Dad
Mc Dad

Can someone help me understand why laremy tunsil gets almost zero hate for all his penalties and stuff? i look at the stats and in the last two seasons bolles played like 400 more snaps and allowed like 2 more sacks and 1 more penalty or something. That is with qbs such as flacco, keenum, and brandon allen. Tunsil literally had deshaun watson at center, who in my opinion is the most elusive qb in the pocket (after wilson), and still allowed like one less sack. Everytime I bring this up people either evade the question or completely disregard it so im rlly confused.

TonyT67
TonyT67

Anyone that knows anything about offensive line play understands that there is holding on every single play. To not get caught, keep the defender in Close and don’t let the ref see cloth get extended. If you disagree with that, you’ve never played O-line to a high level

Rljmtn
Rljmtn

Are you talking about the run that Philip Linsay had that came back? That was more than 30 yards so the total yardage lost was like 50 plus on a single play. Bolles committed 26 holds in 34 starts. 260 yards that the offense lost, not insignificant to say the least. The thing is there is no way of knowing what would have been the out come of those drives. Was he the worst in the NFL, that really is not the issue, it's his poor play plus the poor play of the rest of the O-line. And it's not just the holds, his side of the line caved-in several times which takes away opportunity for passing and running on his side, you have to look at a bigger picture.

Jefffrey55
Jefffrey55

Bolles does fit the budget and does have issues as you point out simply. I like Bolles work ethic and I look forward to Bolles having a couple players of the week this year with great footwork against some tough linebacker. Oh yeah. Sweep left might make some of those holding penalties okay.

Jonnyrotten
Jonnyrotten

Still think bolles is a monster
Coach munchak will have him ready.

Kebby77
Kebby77

Been saying that I'm more concerned about Jainjury James than Bolles. There's hope for Bolles I think. James is just milking the shit !

KeithCummings
KeithCummings

72 most definitely in the make or break part of his stay in Denver.

Denverkewl
Denverkewl

So if Bolles is making such improvement and is better than other OTs why decline his option in heir mind? There has to be a more substantive reason. My guess is it's risk related to sets and technique. From what others have wrote on film study, on plays with poor tech, the play went away from him or Lock got the ball out? I think they loaded the offense and want a message to him to be consistent because there are gonna be more downfield play that take longer to develop. They wanted the pressure of the contract year on his performance - so its do or die.

Chilly303
Chilly303

Thank you Erick for taking the time to dive deeper into the play of Bolles and the reality of the situation.

DKMI
DKMI

LT is a funny position. When they’re doing their job, no one notices them. They stick out like a sore thumb when they don’t do their job. That’s why Bolles drives fans insane. They only hear his name for bad things.

broncosaregood
broncosaregood

Really good insight, gives me some hope about Bolles, maybe poor Qb play before Lock did contribute to his poor results. Why not bring in a Peters to compete and not have to leave it up in the air?

OklaBoma
OklaBoma

The most infuriating part of Bolles play is when he sees a ref throw the flag (a lot of times even while a play is still ongoing) and he holds his hands out with an idiotic look of “what me?”. I know quite a few guys do that but something about how pathetic it makes Bolles look puts me over the edge.
I also never see his teammates talk him up on or off the field. Is there any truth to my observation that Bolles just isn’t liked by his teammates?

CUBuffinTX
CUBuffinTX

It is truly comical the level of stupidity where Bolles is concerned. Thanks for writing the truth Erick its nice to see it by the numbers. I heard the day they declined the 5th year that it was not because they did not want to extend him. Guess we are going to find out.

Nick Kendell
Nick Kendell

Editor

Bolles alone is a worry. You can live with him but the play to date isn't what anyone would hope for from a first round pick. That said, you can do FAR worse. The far greater concern is offensive tackle as a whole. If you had Bolles plus someone solid you could depend on opposite him, this Bolles fixation would make a bit more sense to me (still a bit overboard... but alas). However when it's Bolles erratic player (to date...) on top of Ja'Wuan James' MASSIVE contract and no idea about his fitness to play... on top of Elijah Wilkinson who is fine as depth but a concern as a starter.

Tackle in general is probably the biggest offensive concern both in the immediate and long-term of the offense. Perhaps Denver will regret the 5th year option decision w/ Bolles somewhat like the Titans did with Jack Conklin? We will see. I'm not here to prop up or poo on Bolles. Needs to be more consistent but there are far worse tackles.

DrewV
DrewV

Honestly I get tired of how quickley so many folks through him under the bus. Yes, we all wish he would play at an all-pro level however he is not there. We all thought he would come around this year but he didn't. So the anayletics say he is average. This is a great article and thank you for a well research truth. Stop poking the guy with a stick, let the coaches, coach and the game will play on.

TurkeyBronco
TurkeyBronco

Pretty easy maths for Bolles. Play well and earn 15 million a year, play badly and earn 8 or even less if he isn't playing. I hope that he does well as if we can't sign him then he gets us a compensatory 3rd and if he signs then he would have deserved it and dispelled all or most of the negative talk about him.

Grapplerr87
Grapplerr87

Great article! I've been hopeful that Boles would turn the corner and be the LT for the next 6-7 years knowing he didn't have much time to learn the position in college and having to adjust to the NFL while having some tough QB's to play with. This article renews my faith that Boles will not be a concern this year, BUT I'm still extremely worried about always Injured James at the RT

BleedOrange
BleedOrange

Thanks for doing the homework on this, @ErickTrickel The Broncos obviously see things the same way. I do hope they can bring Beachum in for depth, but I see him more used to fill in for James, than for Bolles. I bet we see Bolles go out there and earn that 5th year extension this season. Things appear to be coming together for him. Coaching, blocking for the right guy, extra work he has been putting in started to pay dividends for him at the end of last season. A taste of the success he has been striving for his whole career hopefully give him the confidence he needs to bring that missing consistency to the field every week.


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