Garett Bolles, Broncos LT
The skinny: Bolles surprised many when he returned to the field only five days after suffering a lower-leg bruise in the Broncos’ Week 2 win over the Cowboys. Then again, he’s surprised many others with his play as a rookie this year. The Broncos remade their offensive line to get bigger and meaner up front to better protect quarterback Trevor Siemian and jumpstart their run game. The latter has improved more than the pass protection, but Bolles has held his own against some of the league’s elite pass-rushers. Next up: reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack.
The background: The Broncos drafted Bolles in the first round to be their present and future at left tackle, a position left vacant when Russell Okung left in free agency. Bolles had played only one year of Division I college football and was a part of a relatively weak offensive line class in the 2017 draft. But through three weeks this season, Pro Football Focus has graded Bolles as the 31st-best tackle in the league overall and the 13th-best tackle in run-blocking.
His take: “You have a new task every single week,” Bolles said. “You have a speed guy, you have a power guy or you have a guy that’s overall just an athlete. You just have to be prepared for everything every single day and just watch film to just continue to improve. I feel very comfortable. I feel like I’m in the right direction going into my first year, learning things and just being the best player I can be. I have a lot of great people around here that believe in me and that makes football fun, too.”
Their take: “They’ve competed against the speed rushers,” head coach Vance Joseph said of the Broncos’ tackles. “That’s a huge issue in this league — blocking speed-rushers every week. Obviously, Mack is a special player. With that being said, we have a game plan to block Mack. It won’t just be on those guys to block him one-on-one all the time. … It’s two-fold. Schematically, we have to help those guys from time to time and the player has to play against that guy one-on-one from time to time.”
Numbers to Know
50-61-2: The Broncos’ all-time record against the Raiders, including an 25-29-2 record in Denver.
1st: Broncos’ rank in rushing defense, with an average of 59.7 yards allowed per game entering Week 4.
60: Receiving yards needed by Demaryius Thomas to reach 8,000 on his career and become the seventh active player to reach that mark.
65: Rushing yards needed by C.J. Anderson to become the sixth Bronco — and first since Hall of Famer Terrell Davis (1995-98) — with at least 300 rushing yards in four consecutive seasons.
7: Sacks by Raiders defensive end and reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack in six career meetings against the Broncos.
36.5: Average starting field position by Broncos opponents this season, the worst in the NFL.