For the Denver Broncos, it has been a rough stretch of football at many positions across the offense over the years, but more particularly at quarterback and offensive tackle. While most fans and analysts expect 31-year-old offensive tackle Garett Bolles to return to stardom in year seven, that does not seem to be the safest bet judging off the inconsistent offseason he has had thus far. Coming off a season-ending leg fracture in 2022, there is some concern regarding whether or not he may be able to return to his elite level of play. Hopefully, that will not be the case for the All-Pro left tackle, however, his preseason showing against the Arizona Cardinals was not the prettiest sight when pass protecting.
During the preseason opener, Bolles played all 20 snaps with the starters in the first half and struggled to contain Cardinals edge Dennis Gardeck in pass protection but did look solid when run blocking. If Bolles were to continue to struggle in the coming days of training camp and especially in the upcoming preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, we all know the authority and lack of leniency head coach Sean Payton would apply to the situation. It is not a stretch at all to predict that veteran offensive tackle Cam Fleming can legitimately be the team's starter by Week 1.
Earlier this offseason, the Broncos decided to bring back Cam Fleming on a one-year deal worth up to $4M to serve as the team's primary swing tackle after previously letting veteran swing tackle Calvin Anderson walk in free agency. However, despite the idea of Fleming backing up both starters in Mike McGlinchey and Garett Bolles, Fleming played all 16 of his snaps with the backups only at left tackle while rookie UDFA Alex Palczewski played at right tackle.
Since Mike McGlinchey has been dealing with a knee sprain that will keep him off the field for the next one or two weeks, the Broncos have sided with veteran offensive tackle Isaiah Prince rather than giving Fleming more reps on the right side. It has been apparent and clear throughout the entire offseason of OTAs and camp that Fleming has primarily been assigned to be ready to fill in at left tackle rather than starting at right. Why so much preparation for left tackle and not an equal amount of reps at both? Sean Payton and the Broncos might be sensing a change that Fleming may need to be completely ready for.
Sure, Fleming receiving a great deal of reps at left tackle as opposed to right could be a result of the coaching staff attempting to make him more comfortable with a position rather than constantly switching from left to right however, it seems all too obvious what the Broncos have in store for the former Super Bowl champion. Perhaps Fleming's pricey contract to serve as "only the backup" was packed with more incentives due to the caution the Broncos had in Bolles' injury affecting his play more than they had initially feared it would.
All in all, it does make sense that the Broncos are working in vet Isaiah Prince at right tackle just so they can assure that Cam Fleming is ready to take over as the starting left tackle in the regular season if Bolles does continue to struggle. Among 72 eligible quarterbacks in the opening week of the preseason that had at least five passing attempts, Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson had the worst pressure rate from his offensive line at a staggering 64% meaning for every three dropbacks, Wilson was being pressured just about two of them. Mind-blowing. The pass protection has to be better up front and more particularly on the left side where Bolles seriously struggled. Sean Payton has stated time and time again that there will not be a repeat of the errors in the 2022 season, meaning he will most definitely not hesitate to make any changes to his offensive line if need be.