By Zack Kelberman
(247 SPORTS) – Garett Bolles is remembered, at this juncture, as an inconsistent pass-protector who allowed 8.5 sacks during an inconsistent 2017 rookie campaign. Dig a little deeper, though, and those gaffes weren’t solely his fault — not all of them, anyway.
Whether it was the lackluster trifecta under center (Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch) holding onto the football too long, scrambling out of the pocket or generally appearing clueless, manning the blindside for each right-hander was an unenviable task.
Which is why Bolles is so grateful that Case Keenum arrived.
“It’s a blessing for sure,” he told reporters on Thursday. “Having just one guy, knowing where he’s going to set up, knowing what he’s going to do every single day. The leadership that he brings, I keep telling you all this, but what happened last year to him was not a fluke thing. That’s who he is. He holds himself [to a high standard]. He’s a competitor—a guy who grinds through four different teams, and to finally get his chance to rise and shine is a man that I’ll put all of my arms and legs into and trust him. Let him fire the ball, let him hit the guys that he needs to hit. But just his leadership and the demand that he holds and the position he holds himself to be is awesome. It just makes us feel grateful to block for him.”
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To Bolles’ point, Keenum has shown more through two weeks of training camp than Siemian, Osweiler and Lynch did — combined — last season. You can’t overstate the benefit of veteran leadership at the most important position in sports; a true field general makes others around him better, as if by osmosis.
With ball security in mind and a natural feel for the rush, Keenum is a blessing to a reworked offensive line still gelling together. The results are tangible. Bolles and his linemates have proved capable of withstanding Denver’s fearsome defense, drawing praise from those they’re blocking.
“It makes us feel good, but at the same time, that’s what the expectation needs to be,” Bolles said. “That’s what offensive line does. We go, and the defense works hard as we go. The offense moves as we go, so if we continue to do the things that we need to do, we’re going to make them successful. Make No. 4 (Keenum) sit back, feel comfortable. Let D.T. (WR Demaryius Thomas), [WR] Emmanuel [Sanders], [WR] Courtland [Sutton] and [WR] Tim Patrick go out and go catch balls.”
The Broncos are counting on a sophomore leap from Bolles, last year’s first-round draft pick. The addition of Keenum helps greatly, as does working beside a permanent, Pro Bowl-caliber left guard in Ronald Leary, who kicked over from the right side.
Give this unit some time and the finished product should be fruitful.
“Chemistry is the key to being a successful offensive line. Us five up front working together as one unit is exactly what we need. We all need to be cohesive, we all need to communicate and we all need to talk, and having that this year has been the big jump I think I’ve seen over the last couple of months.”