The start of this NFL season has been frustrating for the Broncos, who dropped their Monday night opener in Oakland then lost to the Bears because of a soft roughing-the-passer penalty on Bradley Chubb. There are many culprits to blame for the team’s general malaise on offense, and one of them is starting left tackle Garett Bolles.
Since the Broncos took Bolles in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, he’s had 26 holding penalties (16 accepted) in 34 career games, four of which came in the Week 2 loss. Two of those were accepted, and while neither was as consequential as the flag on Chubb, the offensive lineman leads the NFL in holding penalties committed. When asked about his flag magnetism, Bolles blamed his reputation, and said officials were coming after him:
It was frustrating. 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. [...] That was just unfortunate that they keep coming after me, but it is what it is. Like I said, I disagree with some of them.
His team’s brass does not totally share that same view. Broncos GM John Elway went on the radio Monday and called out Bolles, questioning whether the player knew what constituted holding (transcript via ESPN):
“Well, it’s got to stop. Period. 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.”
As ESPN reported, Bolles probably wouldn’t be the team’s starting left tackle if other linemen were healthy. Ja’Wuan James’s injury has forced Elijah Wilkinson, Bolles’s logical replacement, to cover the right tackle spot for James. Things might not get better this week, since Denver has to travel to Lambeau to play the surprisingly fearsome Packers defense on Sunday.