ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos have tried patience, constructive criticism and a sliver of tough love for penalty-prone left tackle Garett Bolles. And now, after another rash of yellow flags in the Broncos’ first two games, the clock is ticking on the former first-round pick’s place in the lineup.
Teammates have tried to help Bolles, and Denver hired one of the best offensive line coaches in football in Mike Munchak to, among everything else on his to-do list, to help out the former first-round selection.
Bolles, who was the 20th pick of the 2017 draft, is really the only one who can fix it.
“Obviously it hurts us (Sunday) at different points in the game … you know a lot of times, even though we overcame a couple of them, they’re a drive-stopper,” said Broncos coach Vic Fangio. “We’ve got to be able to block our guy without holding.”
Even the guy who picked him in the 2017 draft, who has been one of Bolles’ biggest supporters — Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway — has had enough.
“Well, it’s got to stop. Period,” Elway said on a weekly appearance on Newsradio KOA (850-AM). “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.”
Bolles has indeed been flagged for 26 holding penalties in 34 career games, including four times in the Broncos’ 16-14 loss to the Chicago Bears last Sunday. And this is certainly not a new issue with Bolles, who was highly penalized player in his one year at Utah.
He was flagged 15 times overall (three were declined) as a rookie in 2011, 14 times overall in 2018 (four were declined) and five times already this season (three have been declined). That’s 34 penalties and almost 450 yards walked off against the Broncos’ offense.
There is some feeling in the Broncos’ complex that if Elijah Wilkinson, who is Bolles’ backup and who worked with the starting offense plenty in training camp, was not already filling in for the injured Ja’Wuan James at right tackle, a move would have already been made in the Broncos’ lineup.
When asked Monday if Bolles could be taken out for a series or two in games at times when he was clearly struggling, Fangio said: “With our depth the way it is at this point, that’s probably not an option.”
James has missed the Broncos’ first two games with a knee injury and has not yet returned to practice. The Broncos initially expected his return to take four to six weeks, so that may now be the time frame Bolles has to figure out a solution before Wilkinson moves to left tackle.
Some with the Broncos also took notice Bolles seemed to point the finger at the officials at least some after Sunday’s game instead of at his own play.
“It was frustrating,” Bolles said. “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 … But I have the best O-line coach in the National Football League with Coach Munchak … I’m going to turn this around. I promise you all that. I promise Broncos Country that. I promise my teammates that. That was just unfortunate that they keep coming after me, but it is what it is.”
Bolles added he thought he had done a “phenomenal job” improving from last season and that while he could improve his technique with his hands and footwork, added that “I’m not going to change my physicality, I’m not going to change my mindset.”
Former Broncos guard Mark Schlereth, who is a co-host on a morning radio show in Denver and worked Sunday’s Broncos game as an analyst for Fox Sports, has repeatedly cited Bolles’ “stubborness” in changing his technique and offered earlier this week on his show that Bolles “flat-out can’t play.”
“Obviously, I’m going to keep trying to talk to Bolles and see if we can get him right and understanding what he’s doing wrong because obviously to say that he’ll been alright is not OK,” Sanders said. “He needs to understand that he is doing something wrong because they keep throwing the flags on him and he keeps holding. I’m going to talk to him and hopefully we keep breaking down the film and just see him make that jump and get that debt off his back because it’s been happening for like two or three years.”
Andy Reid – ‘Stretch’ for Patrick Mahomes to play this week
Reid otherwise wouldn’t give a timetable for Mahomes’ return.
“I don’t think you put a timeline on this thing,” Reid said. “You go off how he feels and what the doctors say and go with it. I don’t think there’s a set time, though. I know people want a time, but I don’t think you can do that with this injury.
“When you’ve been around him long enough, you know that there’s nothing impossible with this kid. He goes 100 miles an hour and it’s important — and he’s smart this way — that he listens to the doctors and the trainers and he needs to work hard at the same time to get himself ready to go.”
“We’re going to get Matt ready to go,” Reid said of the game against the Packers.
Trainer Rick Burkholder said Mahomes’ MRI “turned out as good as we could possibly imagine.” He said Mahomes has spent the weekend at the Chiefs’ practice facility.
“He’s worked all weekend here,” Burkholder said. “He’s done rehabilitation. He did extensive full therapy here at the complex. He’s done some stuff in the athletic training room and is progressing nicely.
“Every guy is different. Every injury is different. … We’ll manage Patrick accordingly, and he’s right in the middle of the process.”
NFL officiating isn’t getting better, and the league has itself to blame
More replay. Add a sky judge. Do both. Do neither.
None of it will matter, not now or in the future, until the NFL embraces its proposed fixes for officiating.
What is clear beyond all else is that, sometime after Week 2, the league sabotaged its new rule to review pass interference. It has not confirmed that conclusion, of course, and officially a spokesman said no changes have been implemented. But the numbers speak for themselves.
Since the start of Week 3, coaches have lost 27 of 28 pass interference challenges, including some that seemed no less egregious than the non-call that sparked the rule change in last season’s NFC Championship Game.
In reality, it seems the NFL chose the appearance of addressing a shortcoming rather than actually doing the work necessary to fix it — a reality that suggests a significant moment of reckoning looming this winter for the league’s officiating department.
In the meantime, everyone has a suggestion for how to reduce the number of officiating controversies in the NFL. Many of them have merit, including various versions of a sky judge — an additional official in the press box who alerts on-field officials to obvious mistakes. But if the league kneecapped its signature rule this season after only two weeks, why does anyone think it would embrace and see through the challenges of a sky judge? In many ways, the sky judge presents the same issues the NFL encountered and then punted on when reviewing pass interference.
I’m not sure why NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron raised his standard for reversals to a near-impossible level. Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the NFL’s fall owners meeting that the rule was designed only to “correct the obvious and clear error,” and he implied that coaches are still coming to grips with that intent. But even casual observers could pick any number of unsuccessful reviews that seemed ripe for reversal, especially based on the way Riveron defined the standard before the season.
During the spring and summer, Riveron pointed to a series of representative plays when coaches and media members asked how he would decide whether to reverse a pass interference call or no-call. Most notably, he said he would use as a guide the contact that occurred in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIII, when New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore pinned one arm of receiver Brandin Cooks before the ball arrived.
It was the kind of play that generated imprecise analysis: clear contact that fell short of “egregious.” But Riveron’s use of that play suggested that if he saw a reasonable facsimile of pass interference on a review, he would make sure the flag was thrown. That stopped happening after Week 2, and the shift was noticeable.
On Thursday Night Football during Week 4 at Lambeau Field, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox slammed into Green Bay Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling along the right sideline before the ball arrived. The contact, in fact, wasn’t much different than what occurred during last year’s NFC Championship Game. Riveron posted a Twitter video on the decision, saying only that “there was no clear and obvious evidence that [Maddox] significantly hindered the opponent.” He did not explain why he thought the clearly visible contact was not significant enough to merit a flag, and as it turned out, that was the last time Riveron addressed a pass interference review on his social account.
“In #PHIvsGB, Green Bay challenged for pass interference. After review, there was no clear and obvious evidence that Philadelphia #29 significantly hindered the opponent.” – AL pic.twitter.com/Loc0LJp90q
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) September 27, 2019
Let’s not get lost in these details in service of the larger point, though. The NFL has a rule on its books that allows coaches to seek overturns on plays in which on-field officials made mistakes. And, just as it did in 2018 with its new helmet rule, the league has largely declined to enforce it in part because the officiating department didn’t immediately find a way to do so in an equitable and consistent manner.
The same issue would crop up with a sky judge. What standard would define a “clear and obvious” mistake worthy of buzzing down to the referee?
How egregiously would an offensive lineman need to hold a pass-rusher to warrant intervention? Would the lineman need a fistful of jersey? Would his hand need to be outside the frame of the defender’s body? How significantly would a cornerback need to hinder a receiver from playing the ball? How forcefully would a hand need to touch the neck or head to be declared illegal hands to the face?
Dan Orlovsky expresses disappointment in the officiating in the NFL this season, saying owners should take action now to resolve the issue.
These are not unanswerable questions. They would require work and training to create a standard that could be followed by 17 sky judges in crews across the league — the same kind of work the NFL has not yet undertaken as it relates to reviewing pass interference. And it’s debatable at best whether the NFL has the infrastructure to handle the challenge. As ESPN officiating analyst John Parry noted earlier this season, the NFL’s once-robust training staff has dwindled to two employees.
Parry’s own idea for a customized version of the sky judge is even less invasive, as he relayed it during a phone call this week.
Under his proposal, the NFL would hire a handful of college officials, who are also part of its developmental program, after their seasons are over in November. Those college officials would perch in the press box and participate in an experiment that would envision them as an eighth official in the crew. They wouldn’t have the authority to overrule any calls based on what they see on their television monitors, but they could provide insight that the referee wouldn’t have from field level. The goal wouldn’t be to ensure every call was accurate but instead to protect against major credibility-influencing mistakes.
“I see it as the official communicating with the referee,” Parry said, “and saying, for example, on illegal hands to the face, ‘I can see why that was flagged. The head was pinned back, but what I see is the hand near the shoulder, not on the neck or face.’ Then, it’s up to the referee to decide what to do. That’s what he’s paid for. He might side with the call on the field. But if it’s ugly, let’s fix it.”
The NFL will make no judgment on the future of replay, sky judges or any other ideas until after the season, according to competition committee chairman Rich McKay. Everything we’ve seen — the rise in reversal standard, the disappearance of Twitter explanations, a one-time invitation for older officials to retire with a larger severance and the creation of a new executive-level job to handle training — suggests that NFL officiating is gearing up for a momentous offseason.
Whatever they decide, let us hope that they embrace the plan rather than settle for the appearance of having one.
‘It’s completely different with him’: Players amazed by Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers Blog
But this is Linsley’s sixth season as the Green Bay Packers‘ center and even what his quarterback did in Sunday’s 42-24 dismantling of the Oakland Raiders seemed like old hat.
Five touchdown passes, one touchdown run and 429 yards weren’t completely meh to Linsley, but …
“We see it every day in practice,” he said. “This dude’s ridiculously talented. He’s a great dude. He’s a perfectionist. All the stuff you hear, it’s great to see it come to fruition and have him have this unbelievable game. We’re all happy for him. But honestly, it’s nothing new to us. It seems like another day at the office. It was just, Aaron is on today.”
About the only thing that truly amazed Linsley was the passer rating, something coach Matt LaFleur made mention of in front of the entire team in the postgame locker room.
This is David Bakhtiari‘s seventh season as the Packers’ left tackle and as he leaned against a wall in a victorious locker room at Lambeau Field, the matter-of-factness in his tone was evident.
“Aaron is Aaron out there every week, but I mean, you talk about lights out, yeah,” Bakhtiari said. “Our coach said he had a perfect passer rating for the first time in his career. I told him, ‘We blocked up well, but I felt like if we gave you time you were going to light ’em up, or if we let every single guy come at your face you were going to light ’em up regardless.’ That’s kind of how on he was today.”
It’s not that guys like Bakhtiari and Linsley weren’t impressed, but they have been around long enough to see vintage Rodgers more than once.
But what was it like for those who had never seen it firsthand? Here’s what it looked like through their eyes:
Right guard Billy Turner
Turner spent his first five NFL seasons with the Dolphins and Broncos. His quarterbacks were Ryan Tannehill, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler and Case Keenum. Turner said he had never before seen anything like what Rodgers did on Sunday.
“Only on film. Never been on a team with a quarterback of that caliber who has done things that special with the football.”
Who was that quarterback on the film?
“Him. He’s one of the greatest of all time, if not the best. There’s a lot of guys who are trying to emulate their game after the things he does, and to be able to continue to elevate his game again and again is special.
“When you go into a huddle with a quarterback that’s confident with the football in his hands it’s completely different. I’ve been in a lot of situations where I’ve been in the huddle where guys have come in and lack confidence and as a player, it’s almost like you try to elevate your game and everyone around because it’s almost like you’ve got to pick up the slack. But it’s completely different with him.”
Aaron Rodgers felt an offensive explosion was coming with how comfortable he’s starting to feel in new head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense.
Left guard Elgton Jenkins
A second-round pick from Mississippi State, the rookie took over as the full-time starter after Lane Taylor was injured in Week 3.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a quarterback throw for 400 and five touchdowns like easy. Just being in the huddle, it’s a blessing to have a quarterback of such high caliber.
“He put the ball on the money. My job is to protect and I see that now if you protect and give him time, he’s going to make things happen.”
Rodgers was pressured on just five of his 34 dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That’s his second-lowest pressure rate (14.7 percent) in the past three seasons. He went 15 of 18 with three touchdowns when given at least 2.5 seconds to throw. In his first six games this season, he completed 55 percent of such passes.
“Never [seen anything like what Rodgers did Sunday]. That’s some legendary stuff, man.”
“Playing against him three out of my four years and watching, and then actually being on a team with him and seeing him in practice and seeing how he prepares and goes out there in practices, it’s like, man, I always used to be amazed watching him when I was on the field. If he threw the ball, seeing what kind of throw he was going to complete. Watching him on the field. Now, it’s even more exciting to watch him at practice and see him come out here and do it in a game. Everybody is excited, and I’m like, ‘I’ve seen that before.'”
Receiver Jake Kumerow
The former Division III star at Wisconsin-Whitewater caught two passes for 54 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown on Sunday against the Raiders. He’s in his second season with the Packers but barely played last year.
“When we’re out there playing, I don’t even realize how many touchdowns he threw or how many yards he’s throwing for. I had no idea until we got back in the locker room.
Week 7 of the NFL witnessed Aaron Rodgers’ six-touchdown day, Lamar Jackson on the loose in Seattle and a muddy mess between the 49ers and Redskins.
“In college, we had some good games. My quarterback, Matt Behrendt, threw for six touchdowns in the first half and I had three of them, and then we both got taken out so we didn’t get to finish the game. So we were on a roll to start that one. Other than that, [no]. And that’s a little bit different playing where we were at. It was against [Wisconsin-] Stout. Are they a blue team? Yeah, [it was against] Stout.”
Backup quarterback Tim Boyle
Boyle spent last season as the No. 3 quarterback and is Rodgers’ backup this year. He spent his first three college seasons at Connecticut, where he threw one touchdown and 13 interceptions. In his final season, at Eastern Kentucky, he threw 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
“It is incredible, absolutely incredible, what he did today. … The fact that Aaron played pretty much a perfect game, it really is unbelievable. He stands in there, makes all these throws and gets hit, and he keeps plugging along. Honestly, it’s pretty awe-inspiring to watch on the sideline, just watching how he operates and how smooth he is. His leadership out there is obviously a good example for me, but today was one of those days where everything was clicking and it’s well-deserved. Obviously, we’ve been taking some criticism for the offense and leaning on the defense a little bit, but today was one of those days where it feels good to go out there and finally put up 42.”
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