ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For Garett Bolles’ first test of his new year, the Tennessee Titans are giving him Jadaveon Clowney.
Which is fine. If Broncos fans are going to believe Bolles is really a new and improved left tackle in his fourth season, he might as well meet a stiff challenge right away.
“He’s a great pass rusher,’’ Bolles said of Clowney, who recently signed with the Titans, in a sit-down interview with 9NEWS. “I have mad respect for him. I played him my second year in the league when the Houston Texans came into town (2018). … We swapped jerseys and kept in touch over the years.
“He’s a good player. I’m excited for him. It’s always good to go against the best pass rushers as much as you can just because of the experience and you know it’s going to be a heckuva game. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Clowney had a sack that day, the only tackle he recorded in a 19-17 Texans win that otherwise featured the immediate return of recently traded Broncos star receiver Demaryius Thomas.
After Clowney this week, Bolles will get T.J. Watt or Bud Dupree in Game 2 at Pittsburgh, then return to face his old friend Shaq Barrett with the Tampa Bay Bucs. And on it goes. There are no layups for left tackles in the NFL.
“Everyone’s good in this league,’’ Bolles said. “Everyone has their difficulties where you’ve got to study your opponent. Everyone has their signature moves and back up moves.
“I’m very confident. I had a very good training camp going against Von (Miller) and Bradley Chubb. I’m very excited. They taught me a lot this year. I’m way more mature. I feel really good where I’m at and I’m excited to see what happens this year.”
During the offseason, Bolles dedicated himself. Lifted weights while keeping up the cardio fitness. And didn’t talk about it. The Broncos didn’t pick up his fifth-year option so he will be a free agent at year’s end, which in turn focused him.
“I just tried to get myself stronger, got my mind prepared going into the year knowing they didn’t pick up my fifth year option,’’ he said. “Spent as much time with my family which keeps me mentally strong. I know the challenges going on with COVID and things that are going on with the world, I knew if I just dialed in on what I need to do to make myself better, I know that’s going to make me that much better on the football field.”
No Broncos player has ever taken as much guff as Bolles did last year as fans and media grew tired of his holding calls. Jake Plummer heard a boo or two but nothing like Bolles. Yet, Bolles showed up for every practice, every snap and every game.
“Like what I said before, our fans are super passionate,’’ he said. “We have some of the best fans in the NFL. I truly believe that. Our fans they’ve spoiled with us winning multiple AFC championships, Super Bowls. Our GM is a very well-known face here, Mr. Elway. The passion he brings to the game and this building. The people here want us to win and we deserve to win.
“The last couple years have been down years. They expect a lot from me, being drafted in the first round of 2017. I haven’t truly lived up to my potential but I know over the last seven games last year I caught on to something. I have the same O-line coach for the second year in a row is huge for me. Same left guard (Dalton Risner). Having Drew back there, a mobile quarterback is huge for me. He can get me out of situations that happen throughout the game. I have everything I need in front of me and beside me to be successful, now it’s to me to put it on the field.”
Bolles’ offensive line coaches during his career were Jeff Davidson and Chris Strausser in 2017, Sean Kugler and Strausser in 2018 and Mike Munchak last year and now. Nothing against the other guys – they all got jobs elsewhere in the NFL after leaving Denver. It’s just that each coach had their own ideas with how to tinker with Bolles.
He plans on showing this year he’s best with familiar repetition. And Munchak and head coach Vic Fangio have stuck by Bolles.
“Every O-line coach brings something different to the table,’’ Bolles said. “They’re going to teach us different things. The majority of the schemes are very similar to run game and pass game. Just different terminology.
“But coach Munchak has played the game. He’s got a Gold Jacket for a reason because of the success he had as a player and he’s probably going to get another Gold Jacket as a coach because of who he is and how he holds himself, making (offensive) tackles great like he did in Pittsburgh. He’s known for that.
“I’m very happy. We have a great relationship. I have mad respect for him I love him dearly. He trusts me fully which gives me more confidence. Now I have to show him that he can trust me on a regular basis and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to do what he tells me to do.
“I had a great camp. I felt confident with Dalton next to me which was another thing because our communication, our relationship. Now I just have to put it on the field and put it on tape and let my play do the talking.’’
He also believes Drew Lock, an athletic, strong-armed quarterback who showed superior mobility in five games last year, will make him look good.
“I’ve had seven quarterbacks, Drew is my seventh one,’’ Bolles said. “Every one brought different things to the table. I’ve had a lot of change back there but having someone consistent starting off the year is going to be huge for me.
“He’s a gamer. He does everything right. He moves, he throws, he has that swagger about him that I love and it’s my job to keep his jersey as clean as I can. I know the way he moves in the pocket. I know I can be successful because that’s something I need. Not every play is going to be perfect but having a quarterback that can step up in the pocket or move to the right, move to the left, is a difference between a sack or a touchdown. That’s really the truth.
“You look all the great quarterbacks in the league, they’re all mobile, they all can move, they all can throw on the run and that’s something that Drew can do. I’m looking forward to seeing what Drew can do behind me and I know the success he had win.’’