Garett Bolles went back to basics to transform himself from a grabbing criminal lineman into one of the top left tackles in the NFL.
That focus on the fundamentals has turned him from a player who was marked 46 times in 48 games to a player who only got a few post-snap penalties in 2020, who has not allowed a single bag all season and who was taken by Pro is considered to. Football Focus and other analytical buffs like the best of the game at his position.
Adding to the remarkable nature of his transformation from an athletic, converted lacrosse star who had no football instincts is this: he did it during the pandemic year that started with a remote off-season that forced players to train creatively themselves.
To work on his foundations, Bolles first had to recruit his wife, Natalie, to play the roles of Joey Bosa, Maxx Crosby and Chris Jones.
“I used to take sets barefoot in my kitchen, so when I’m in my right place, I know exactly how my weight is between my feet and my toes,” said Bolles. “I had my wife in line and she was running after me and I was taking sets and I put my hands on her – not difficult of course – but just enough so I can get into a repeat by doing the same thing over and over again. “
He would also “go to the park and set up a tree or put cones on the ground” to refine his game.
Bolles attributes his thriving at the ripe NFL age of 28 to these details he focused on and to the tutelage of his position coach, Hall of Famer Mike Munchak, whose work with Bolles began to pay off in 2019.
“I’ve always found something to do to keep my body in shape and get my mind where it needs to be mentally and physically, and really respond to what I needed to do,” said Bolles. “… I think that’s why I have a successful season, because I do the little things right that I thought were not really important at the beginning of my career.”
Bolles said a better diet, a good night’s sleep, and a good work-life balance helped him make this leap.
“Now I know how important it is to eat well, sleep well, train my body to a great extent, so when I start a game I am not tired if we drive for two minutes or if the game is on the line as a few weeks ago to the Chargers, “he said.” Just give myself time so I can really focus on myself. I think that was the most important thing about being a rookie and for the last few years I’ve just got the motions gone through.
“Now that I understand what it means to be an NFL left tackle – a franchise left tackle – I have taken on the task of really dialing in the little things and I think it pays off.”
After Bolles helped Denver get a top 189-meter season on the ground last week when he and guard Dalton Risner led a revival of the Lombardi Sweep against Miami, Phillip Lindsay stated, “The stuff he does is Pro Bowl . “
Sean Payton, the New Orleans coach, agrees.
“I know the (scouting) report this week is that he’s playing at Pro Bowl level and you’re paying attention,” said Payton, whose Saints (8-2) are visiting the Broncos (4-6) this weekend.
“Obviously that’s hard to do in a left tack, because there are some elite left tackles. But he’s settled and you can see his athleticism. He hasn’t given up his resignation this year, which is pretty impressive considering where we are this season. “
Asked about the umpteenth time on a Zoom call this week about Bolles’ improvement in 2020, Broncos coach Vic Fangio said, “Well, you have to keep hitting that dead horse because you hit it when it was the other way around.”
“I think the key to his turnaround is just persistence, both on his part and on our part,” added Fangio. “Both Mike and (assistant O-line coach Chris Kuper) and myself have had faith in him, we stayed with him and talked to him regularly. We all have a good relationship with him.
‘He had a great low season. He stuck to it, he didn’t let the outside noise, which was appropriate at times, stop his determination to keep improving. I think he will finally be rewarded for that approach. “