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2019 Broncos roster review: Left tackle Garett Bolles

Are the conditions finally right for Garett Bolles to move into the upper tier of NFL left tackles?

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

After being drafted with the 20th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Garett Bolles has struggled to particularly in light of being the first offensive tackle drafted that year. His career will always be cast in comparison to Ryan Ramczyk, who was the second offensive tackle taken that year.

Left tackle is one of the three or four most important positions on the team and to get a good one you either have to pay handsomely in the free agent market, or draft one. Did we draft a good one in Bolles? What does the data say?

Garett Bolles Profile

Height: 6’5”
Weight: 297 lbs
Age: 27
Experience: 3rd year

The Good

Bolles has elite quickness for an offensive tackle and despite his struggles he has started every game in his two NFL seasons. For a man with very limited experience playing offensive tackle, he has learned quickly at acquitted himself well. His stats rank him in the middle of the pack in both his seasons, which is good for a relatively inexperienced player, but bad if you are the the first player from your position taken in the draft.

Denver Broncos v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Atlanta Falcons DE, Takkarist McKinley, who was drafted 6 slots later in 2017 called Garett Bolles the best offensive tackle he faced in college. So we know the talent is there, we just need consistency.

The Bad (and the stats)

Bolles was bad enough that Mark Schlereth called for him to be benched at one point during last season, but let’s look at some performance data before we start screaming about benching him. I agree with Stink on many things, but I think he was wrong in his conclusion here.

There are three parts to playing offensive line:

  1. Pass blocking - I list this first because 70% of all yards are gained through the air in the NFL.
  2. Run blocking
  3. Avoiding penalties

Bolles allowed pressure on 7.4% of his pass blocking snaps in 2017 as a rookie. That was 36th among starting offensive tackles (of which there are techincally 64). Unfortunately there were only 47 offensive tackles with 700 or more offensive snaps in 2017, so Bolles was much closer to the bottom (Breno Giacomini - 12.2%) than the top (David Bahktiari - 2.5%). The average among qualifying tackles that year was 6.1%, so Bolles was below average at pass blocking as a rookie. As a second year starter, Bolles improved his pass blocking allowing pressure on only 4.3% of his pass blocking snaps (16th of 57 qualifiers). That was a big jump and showed that he learned a great deal as a rookie. As this point he is probably still outside the top tier of NFL left tackles in terms of pass blocking, but there is great hope for his continued improvement (more on that later). Data from this is from

Bolles had been good at run blocking according to during his rookie seeason. The Broncos were 9th in Adjusted Line Yards, ALY, when runinng behind left tackle in 2017. However, the Broncos were 27th in ALY when running behind left tackle in 2018. The Denver had the second smallest left tackle run frequency in the league in 2018 at 5.6%. Only Washington was lower at 4.9%.

So if you trust PFF and FO, Bolles had been getting better at pass protection while getting worse at run blocking. How has he done on the penalty front? According to Bolles had 12 penalties called on him in 2017. That was the 3rd most among tackles with only Charles Leno (13) and Germaine Ifedi (16) having more called against them. Seven of Bolles penalties were holding penalties in 2017 as a rookie. That was tied for most in the league with Shon Coleman. As many of you might remember, most of those holding penalties were drive-killers. Bolles was only called for ten penalties in 2018 which was tied for 5th most among tackles. Seven of those were holding penalties which was tied for most in the league with Tyron Smith. Of those seven holding penalties two came in in the loss to the Ravens and another two came in the loss to the Chargers at the end of the season. He was only called for holding three times in the other 14 games. I’d say he improved in the penalty department in his second year in the league, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.


Bolles discussing working with Mike Munchak.

“Munchak’s awesome. The biggest blessing I could ever ask for, him being my third o-line coach in three years and having a rough start (to my career) and having a guy that’s played in the game, is a Hall of Famer, knows everything about football and all the ins and outs. “I couldn’t be more blessed to be with him and learn from him and be with him and hear his experiences, his stories and his passion for the game. It’s a perfect combination for me.”

Mike Munchak talking about Garett Bolles.

Munchak on his message to Garett Bolles: “Just continue to grow. He got better (last year). He has only two years in the league. He’s played with three different line coaches and in three different systems. That’s not easy to do. He is a talented guy. He’s athletic. He’s not your big, 315-, 320-pound tackle (listed at 297). … His quickness allows him to do a lot of things other guys can’t do, so it’s going to be fun. I’m enjoying working with him.”

Munchak has a great track record of turning marginal offensive lineman into starters and turning decent offensive lineman in Pro-Bowlers. I’m hopeful he can do the latter with Bolles.

Garett Bolles Highlights

If you want to watch some college film on Bolles, here is the scouting report that Scotty put together after we drafted him, replete with film.

Garett Bolles’ roster status with the Broncos

As a first round draft pick Bolles is under contract through the 2020 season and the team has the option to pick up his 5th year if they so choose. I see no situation where Bolles is not on the 53-man roster and I would be shocked if he played so poorly in training camp as to be benched; unless first round picks are complete busts (see Lynch, Paxton) teams don’t cut or trade them before their rookie deals expire.