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Broncos' camp Question No. 5: Can Garett Bolles cut down on penalties at left tackle?

The first-round pick and three-year starter will have to beat out Elijah Wilkinson in training camp to keep his job.
Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Garett Bolles on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Garett Bolles is in the best physical shape of his life, appears to be a good place mentally, and is ready to compete against his good friend Elijah Wilkinson for the Broncos’ starting left tackle position.

It has been communicated to Bolles that he and Wilkinson will split first-team reps during training camp. It can be surmised there are two reasons for this.

One, Wilkinson has earned the right to compete after starting 19 games the past two seasons at right guard and right tackle.

Two, the Broncos want to send a message to Bolles that even though he’s started all 48 games through his first three seasons, his play hasn’t been good enough to receive returning-starter security.

Bolles has received high marks from Pro Football Focus, a website that grades all positions on a weekly basis. When he’s fundamentally sound, he has the athleticism to be an above-average NFL left tackle.

Yet, Bolles has too often been penalized, particularly in regard to holding calls.

He has been flagged for 32 accepted penalties, including 20 holding penalties.

Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Garett Bolles on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019.

Which leads to Question 5: Can Bolles cut down on his penalties and improve his play at left tackle?

First, Bolles should have every advantage to win the left tackle position, at least at the start of the season. Wilkinson is coming off ankle surgery and is still two or three weeks away from performing at full strength.

Even though camp practices don’t start for another three weeks, Wilkinson may not be as physically ready as Bolles.

Broncos general manager John Elway, head coach Vic Fangio and offensive line coach Mike Munchak showed confidence in Bolles by not acquiring a left tackle in the offseason, either through free agency or the draft. Then again, Elway did not pick up the $11.064 million fifth-year option on Bolles, a sign of non-confidence.

What the pat-on-the-back and kick-in-the-derriere mean is even though Bolles was a first-round draft pick in 2016 and is a three-year starter, he will have to prove himself all over again by beating out Wilkinson and blocking with the proper technique.

The Broncos’ franchise player is Drew Lock. He is a second-year quarterback with just five games of NFL experience. Protecting his blind side is imperative. So is not having promising drives halted by a holding penalty. The Broncos need Bolles to come through in 2020.

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