/Elway calls out OT Bolles for holding penalties

Elway calls out OT Bolles for holding penalties

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos have tried patience, constructive criticism and a sliver of tough love for penalty-prone left tackle Garett Bolles. And now, after another rash of yellow flags in the Broncos’ first two games, the clock is ticking on the former first-round pick’s place in the lineup.

Teammates have tried to help Bolles. Denver hired one of the best offensive line coaches in football, Mike Munchak, to, among everything else on his to-do list, help out the former first-round selection.

Bolles, the 20th pick of the 2017 draft, is really the only one who can fix it.

“Obviously it hurts us [Sunday] at different points in the game. … You know a lot of times, even though we overcame a couple of them, they’re a drive-stopper,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “We’ve got to be able to block our guy without holding.”

Even the guy who drafted Bolles and has been one of his biggest supporters — Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway — has had enough.

“Well, it’s got to stop. Period,” Elway said on his weekly appearance on KOA NewsRadio. “There are no more excuses for it. He’s had 26 holding penalties in the last two years and two games, so it’s got to stop. The bottom line is if he thinks he’s getting singled out, he is. He’s got to understand that. He’s got to understand what he’s doing. And that was my question [Sunday], ‘Does he know what holding is?’ Does he know what he can and can’t do?’ If he thinks he’s getting targeted, he’s got to realize he isn’t. We’ll keep working for it and he’s still a talented guy. He cannot do that because it’s beating us.”

Bolles has indeed been flagged for 26 holding penalties in 34 career games, including four times in the Broncos’ 16-14 loss to the Chicago Bears last Sunday. And this is certainly not a new issue with Bolles, who was highly penalized player in his one year at Utah.

He was flagged 15 times overall (three were declined) as a rookie in 2017, 14 times overall in 2018 (four were declined) and five times already this season (three have been declined). That’s 34 penalties and almost 450 yards walked off against the Broncos’ offense.

There is some feeling in the Broncos’ complex that if Elijah Wilkinson, who is Bolles’ backup and who worked with the starting offense plenty in training camp, was not already filling in for the injured Ja’Wuan James at right tackle, a move would have already been made in the Broncos’ lineup.

When asked Monday if Bolles could be taken out for a series or two in games at times when he was clearly struggling, Fangio said: “With our depth the way it is at this point, that’s probably not an option.”

James has missed the Broncos’ first two games with a knee injury and has not yet returned to practice. The Broncos initially expected his return to take four to six weeks, so that may now be the time frame Bolles has to figure out a solution before Wilkinson moves to left tackle.

Some also took notice Bolles seemed to point the finger at the officials after Sunday’s game instead of at his own play.

“It was frustrating,” Bolles said. “I’ve built a reputation for myself in this league of holding. I disagree with it, to be honest. There are some calls I disagree with, and there are some things that I understand. … But I have the best O-line coach in the National Football League with Coach Munchak. … I’m going to turn this around. I promise you all that. I promise Broncos Country that. I promise my teammates that. That was just unfortunate that they keep coming after me, but it is what it is.”

Bolles added he thought he had done a “phenomenal job” improving from last season and that while he could improve his technique with his hands and footwork, he is “not going to change my physicality, I’m not going to change my mindset.”

Former Broncos guard Mark Schlereth, who is a co-host on a morning radio show in Denver and worked Sunday’s Broncos game as an analyst for Fox Sports, has repeatedly cited Bolles’ “stubbornness” in changing his technique and offered earlier this week on his show that Bolles “flat-out can’t play.”

Many players have tried to help Bolles in the past, including Broncos linebacker Von Miller, and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said this week that “everybody’s trying to talk to him.”

“Obviously, I’m going to keep trying to talk to Bolles and see if we can get him right and understanding what he’s doing wrong, because obviously to say that he’ll been all right is not OK,” Sanders said. “He needs to understand that he is doing something wrong because they keep throwing the flags on him and he keeps holding. I’m going to talk to him and hopefully we keep breaking down the film and just see him make that jump and get that debt off his back, because it’s been happening for like two or three years.”