Fangio Intimates That a Healthy James Would Give Broncos Options to Shuffle the Lineup at Left Tackle
For the better part of the last three seasons, fans have been fed up with the incompetence of Garett Bolles at left tackle. The Denver Broncos selected Bolles in the first round of the 2017 draft, and each subsequent year he's been in the league, he's been among the most-penalized.
Bolles leads the league once again in penalties. He entered Week 12's tilt with the Buffalo Bills with 14 total penalties — 12 holding, two false starts. Bolles incurred his 13th holding foul in the contest and once again, it cost the Broncos.
Fans understand that draft pedigree plays a part in how much patience a team shows with a player. But leading the NFL in penalties in each of the three seasons Bolles has been in the NFL, fans can't understand why the Broncos haven't made a change at left tackle this year.
On Monday, head coach Vic Fangio made it clear that the absence of Ja'Wuan James has significantly tied the team's hands in terms of its options at experimenting on the O-line, specifically at tackle. Fangio also intimated that a healthy James could change the equation and give the team what it needs to sit Bolles down.
“That’s all dependent upon Ja’Wuan," Fangio said. "He’s cleared to play, but we have to get him ready to play. He’s got to get mentally ready to play, emotionally ready to play and be able to go out there and play good, not just go out there. That’s part of that equation.”
If James is available, the Broncos would have the option to either play him at left tackle (doubtful) or move Elijah Wilkinson to the left side. Wilkinson has started nine games this year for Denver at right tackle in relief of the injured James but served as the team's backup left tackle throughout training camp and preseason.
Wilkinson was solid at left tackle in August, which doesn't guarantee that he'd thrive in place of Bolles. But at least the Broncos wouldn't have a ticking timebomb on the field every time the offense lines up.
That's the problem with Bolles. At any given point in the game, he's a threat to derail a drive and torpedo the offense.
Never say never, but I doubt fans will see the Broncos bench Bolles at any point this season, even if James returns fully healthy for the remaining five games. But going into 2020, if the Broncos don't make it a priority to upgrade the left tackle position, the team could face a fan mutiny.