For the Broncos to have a successful season, the special teams unit will have to contribute. In 2016, the Broncos’ average starting field position was the 28-yard line, good enough for 15th in the league, yet, their drive success rate was .647, 30th in the league.

The Broncos’ success, with an offense that struggled to move the ball last year, is going to rely on the scoring range of kicker Brandon McManus, and the line of scrimmage set up by punt returner Isaiah McKenzie and kick returner Cody Latimer.

McKenzie has already shown a flash, breaking off a 31-yard punt return against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1. McKenzie was selected by the Broncos in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Georgia. He was a return specialist with the Bulldogs and racked up five punt return touchdowns, as well as a kick return touchdown.

“It’s a high risk-reward deal when you have a rookie who is so talented,” Broncos Special Teams Coordinator Brock Olivo said ahead of Denver’s Week 2 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. “You don’t want him to hold out because my gosh, he can take one to the house anytime.”

McKenzie’s 31-yard return will help to build his confidence moving forward, something the Broncos need in order to improve field position and help the offense. Through the first week, the average starting field position has jumped to the 32-yard line, sixth in the league. As McKenzie continues to have big returns, the special teams will only improve.

“It was good for not only Isaiah’s confidence, but the confidence of our punt return team. The more returns we have and the more Isaiah threatens to break one, the more those guys want to block for him,” Olivo said.

The Broncos did not have a punt returned for a touchdown last season. They hope McKenzie can break that streak.

“He has to be smart down there. I talked to him about that. The one thing I love about him though is that he is aggressive down there,” Olivo said. “If he does get opportunities to steal one, we want him to do that by all means.”

Kicker Brandon McManus is off to a decent start as well, having made a field goal from 20 yards and going three-for-three on extra points. McManus missed a field goal from 50 yards, though, after quarterback Trevor Siemian was sacked on back-to-back plays, losing 19 yards combined.

“He made what, four kicks before that? He had a good night,” Olivo said of McManus. “He missed that one and we got pushed back before that. He’s going to be fine. You miss-hit one every now and again. He pushed it and he’s going to be fine.”

Defensive end Shelby Harris contributed to the win as well, blocking a late game-tying field goal attempt by Chargers kicker Younghoe Koo. With new rules preventing players from jumping over the center to block kicks, teams have to get creative and find talented players to continuously be a threat on field goal attempts.

“We recognized in the preseason that he [Harris] had a knack for doing that. Some guys just have it, they have a way to slip through the ‘A-gap,’ the ‘B-gap’ or whatever it may be. He’s a guy who we designed blocks around,” Olivo said. “Really, he and Derek Wolfe in there are a force to be reckoned with. Derek’s big and strong so he can knock the guard and Shelby can slip through. Shelby is an all-out effort guy. I’m just really proud of him and the way the guys executed.”

McKenzie and the Broncos will continue to rely on their special teams to set up and assist the offense moving forward, starting with a game against Dallas, whose punter’s average yards per punt sits at 34.8 and gives up an average return of 16 yards.