Garett Bolles has had his share of struggles, but Pro Football Focus says he may have had a better season than most fans would've imagined.
Though the fourth-year left tackle's reputation is marred by penalties, PFF's Ben Linsey says that standing doesn't quite match what their analytics say.
"While it's fair to harp on the penalties for Bolles after he ranked among the top-three offensive linemen across the league in penalties in each of the past three seasons, the negativity surrounding Bolles has gone too far," Linsey wrote. "It's hard to say he qualifies as a bust. Looking at qualifying left tackles since 2017, Bolles' overall grade of 77.1 puts him at 15th out of 37 total players."
Though Bolles did record his most penalized season in 2019 (17 total penalties, including seven that were declined or offsetting), it was also his best season, according to PFF. And, when Drew Lock became the starting quarterback, he made marked improvement.
Prior to Lock's first start in the Broncos' Week 13 win over the Chargers, Bolles averaged a PFF grade of 64 and 1.27 penalties per game. In the five games after that, Bolles' average grade increased to 75.3 and his penalty-per-game average was more than halved to 0.6.
That span also included the highest-graded game of Bolles' career. His 93.6 grade against the Lions was the second-highest in the NFL in Week 16.
Bolles also hasn't missed a game in his career, and even though his play has been inconsistent at times, he has provided an element of consistency over the past three years when injuries have so often struck other tackles.
"He was there every play. I don't think he missed a play this year. We talked about availability—he was there," President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said on Dec. 30 after the season ended. "He got off to a slow start, but I think that he continued to get better and better and better as the year went on. We did a better job helping him, too. I think [G Dalton] Risner did a nice job at left guard helping him and working together. That cohesion there was good. … The hard thing is that Garett is under the microscope. He's under the microscope and any time they say '72,' it brings down the whole stadium. That happens. He got himself in that position, so we'll continue working at it."
Bolles will have a chance to retain his starting role protecting Lock's blind side, but Elway later said during the 2020 NFL Draft that there will be a competition for the spot.
"Garett's going to compete for a job like everybody else on the football team," Elway said. "The bottom line is [G/T] Eli Wilkinson will be back. They're going to compete for jobs like everybody else. I think it's our job on the personnel side to give Vic and his staff the best players we can to create that competition. That's what our job is to do on the personnel side."
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