It may not be the quarterback spot, but one of the Denver Broncos’ position battles has been decided to this point of training camp.
Following Saturday’s practice, head coach Vance Joseph said that Isaiah McKenzie, whom the Broncos selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of the University of Georgia, has won the punt returner job.
Following the 10th day of training camp on Monday, Joseph further explained why he has assigned the job to McKenzie.
“We drafted him to be our punt returner,” Joseph said Monday. “But, you never know about guys until they get here. He’s a mature guy and he’s obviously very, very explosive as far as a movement player. He catches the ball well. That’s the first trait you want with a punt returner, a guy who can secure the catch. His run ability is obvious. He’s the guy right now.”
McKenzie is no stranger to making big plays in the return game. During his three years as a member of the Bulldogs, five of his 17 total touchdowns came by way of punt returns. Even with that on his résumé, McKenzie still had a feeling that a making the team was no guarantee. To get a shot this early means something to him.
“That was my first goal, making the team,” McKenzie said after Monday’s practice. “I told everybody that when I got here. Being drafted in the fifth round is not easy, but I have to come out here every day and do my job as well, just like everybody else.”
While making the team was the main thing on his mind, to be given the starting spot ahead of the Broncos’ first preseason game against the Chicago Bears is something that he’s proud of, but he knows that the work is just beginning.
“It’s an accomplishment to me, I thank him for that,” McKenzie said. “It’s not over, I still have to work and I still have other jobs to do and things like that. I feel pretty confident about it.”
McKenzie’s first chance to show his stuff comes Thursday night when the Broncos head to Chicago to play the Bears. Of all the ways to get people’s attention, McKenzie is focused on one thing.
“Just making big plays, making big plays on the offense and showing coaches I can make big plays on special teams, offense and everything like that,” McKenzie said. “Just doing my job.”
McKenzie hasn’t yet been able to show Broncos Country what he can do, but he has his head coach’s seal of approval.
“He was drafted for that position,” Joseph said. “He’s proven he can do it and I feel really good about Isaiah being that guy.”