ENGLEWOOD — Patience, even with first-round draft picks, comes with an expiration date. With the Broncos ranking 28th in points and 30th in red zone touchdown percentage, mistakes are amplified. The Broncos show progress moving the ball, but clobber themselves with penalties. Struggling left tackle Garett Bolles has provided venom to drives, flagged for five holding calls in the first two games. It gives him 26 over 34 games, a staggering number that must change for him to continue playing, an opportunity he still has because right tackle Ja'Wuan James' knee injury left few options.
General manager John Elway voiced his concerns on KOA radio this week with Dave Logan and Rick Lewis.
"Well, it's gotta stop. Period. There's no more excuses for it. The bottom line is if he thinks he's getting singled out, he is. He's gotta understand that," Elway said. "He's gotta understand what he's doing, and that was my question yesterday, 'Does he know what holding is?' Does he know what he can and can't do?'... We'll keep working for it, and he's still a talented guy. He's in a situation, we can't afford it. ... Hopefully, with an explanation and a better understanding by him of what it is they are looking for (it will get better). He cannot keep doing it because it's beating us."
No one thrives in the NFL on talent alone. The league is too hard. Bolles has shown a willingness to work in his first three seasons, but has not demonstrated the aptitude and technique to be a functional offensive lineman. He has had four offensive line coaches in three season. Last year, the Broncos kept a coach on the sideline almost exclusively to help Bolles during games. That's why this latest nosedive represents a crossroads. The Broncos have tried multiple tactics to accelerate his development and create improvement. Nothing has stuck, even the presence of new line boss Mike Munchak, who is considered one of the best teachers in the game.
James is not expected back for roughly three more weeks, at the earliest, after spraining his left knee. Had he been healthy, the Broncos could have benched Bolles in favor of Elijah Wilkinson, who has performed well at right tackle, but can play left.
Bolles' slump is part of a bigger problem: the Broncos offense has yet to put together a full game. Denver has scored 21 fourth quarter points, showing resilience. The problem? The Broncos sit last in first-half points with three. They posted 27 first downs last week, but only 14 points. They rent the tux, but don't go to prom. They need to finish.
"We haven't had a problem getting down into the red zone. It's about punching it in," said running back Phillip Lindsay, who has been limited to 79 yards on 24 carries. "It's a mindset."
The Broncos don't have the luxury of spending days wrapping their head around the slow start. They face a Packers defense that leads the NFL with five takeaways, and ranks second in points allowed.
"They are going to give us multiple looks and play fast," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "They are going to try and create chaos."
Inside linebacker Todd Davis (calf) is positioned to play this week. Cornerback Bryce Callahan (foot) has ground to cover to be ready. Fullback Andy Janovich (pectoral) and Joe Jones (triceps) are making progress. ... .Rookie quarterback Drew Lock is wearing a much smaller brace on his injured right thumb and has increased his activity. He is not far from starting a throwing program.