When the Denver Broncos drafted offensive tackle Garett Bolles in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, they were hoping they were getting a mauler who could lock down the left side of the offensive line.
In his first year, Bolles was anything but that as he went through the pains of being a rookie in the NFL.
“There were rocky moments,” Bolles said of his rookie year. “Rookies have to go through certain things. I watched a lot of film trying to fix my mistakes. I’m trying to do everything I can possible to get ready. Knowing that we’ve got a new quarterback in, I’ve got to be ready to protect him. I’m excited for that and I feel really good going into Year Two. I feel a lot calmer and collected. The offense is pretty similar. The thing is just new terminology. I’m just looking forward to it and I’m excited to see what happens this season.”
Those mistakes came mostly in the form of holding penalties. He made the All-Penalty Team with 12 for a whooping 106 yards in 2017. It was the fifth-most yardage racked up by any player on that dubious list.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave noted last week that the penalty area was the most important thing he’d like to see Bolles improve on in his development as a second year player.
“We want Garett to clean up his level of play,” Musgrave said. “We had number of penalties last year that we can get corrected. They’ve been addressed and we’re looking forward to him playing a cleaner style this year. Also, just being better for us overall, both in the run and pass game.”
Bolles acknowledged how difficult it was to come in and start in his first year. He is working on the mental side of his game more than anything, which should help him understand how his play is affecting the quarterback and running backs on any given snap.
“Last year, I just came in and I was raw,” Bolles said of the penalty issues. “I only played offensive tackle for not too long. But now I have a season under my belt. I understand what it means to be in the NFL and hold down that left side and know where my quarterback is going to set up every single play, which is a big help. Just going out there and playing fast is the thing I’m going to focus on, which is going to help me stay focused. Also, to move my feet. We changed up our pass sets and everything like that with Coach Strausser. He did a great job with all of our tackles. Just trusting him, trusting in the process and knowing that if my feet get there before my hands I’m going to be alright.”
One way he improved was by getting bigger and stronger this offseason. He played under 295 pounds in 2017, but has bulked up to around 305 pounds this season having added mostly muscle to his physique.
“I just had to gain a bit more weight,” Bolles said. “Just so I can anchor when I get those bull rushes and things like that. I talked with my coaches and the front office and they want me to get a little bit bigger. So, I’ll probably stay around 300-305 [pounds]. That’s sort of my range. I feel more comfortable there—I feel more explosive and powerful. Probably no more than about 308 is what I’m feeling. I feel confident there. My body feels good and I’m looking forward to the season.”
In the NFL, every player is good and Bolles looked a bit soft at times during his rookie season. By adding the extra weight and muscle mass, he should be a little more stout out there this season.
Bolles finished his rookie season the 73rd ranked pass blocking tackle in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. He definitely needed the extra weight to handle the bull rush. The added muscle should also help him in run blocking, where he was actually one of the better run blocking tackles in the league ranking 12th overall via PFF.
With the added weight and strength, Bolles should be much stronger in pass protection. He may never be elite in that area, but if he can be good enough the Broncos should enjoy him being an elite player in the run game.