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Denver Broncos wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie #16 during punt return drill at training camp at Dove Valley Aug. 4, 2018. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
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Bye: Joseph taking risk with McKenzie atop Broncos depth chart

Denver Broncos wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie #16 during punt return drill at training camp at Dove Valley Aug. 4, 2018. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The 2017 season was one to forget for Denver Broncos wide receiver, and punt returner, Isaiah McKenzie, who led the NFL in muffed punts as a rookie.

In 2018, McKenzie looks to turn the page on a frustrating first season and prove to the orange and blue faithful that he can be trusted to return punts.

“I was saying since yesterday that I can’t wait until Saturday to show Broncos Country and everybody else that I can do the job and that I’m going to be a great punt returner,” McKenzie said Tuesday.

But it’s a risk head coach Vance Joseph can’t afford, “Stokley and Zach” host Zach Bye said on Tuesday.

“Vance Joseph cannot mess around with ball security when it comes to Isaiah McKenzie. He can’t do it,” Bye said, calling it “disturbing” that the young returner could so easily affect the coach’s job.

Naming McKenzie the starter did not come as a surprise, however, to Bye’s co-host Brandon Stokley, who said preseason is the time to evaluate the roster.

“They kept him on the roster, so you’re not going to have him at the bottom of the barrel,” Stokley said. “You’ve got to evaluate your guys, and this is the time to do it. So, let’s see what he looks like.”

“But I don’t think Vance Joseph’s leash with Isaiah McKenzie is going to look like it did last year at all. I don’t think that’s the case. Vance knows his back’s against the wall. He’s not going to do what’s best for Isaiah this year.”

Even if McKenzie should come out of the preseason unscathed in terms of catching kicks, “The Drive” co-host Alfred Williams said he’ll need to be “perfect” while averaging 20 yards per return to even have a shot.

Instead, Williams said, it’ll be undrafted college free agent Phillip Lindsay’s job to lose.

“We saw ineptitude last year at the return position. Now, that’s glaring, and you don’t soon forget about those bad plays,” Williams said. “The most in the NFL as far as muffs happened right here, and that guy’s still on the team.

“I think that if Phillip Lindsay continues to push at the running back position he becomes a valuable commodity in the return business as well.”

Lindsay, who played college football up the road from Denver at the University of Colorado, sits atop the depth chart at kick returner but he, along with McKenzie, is buried deep at his position.

With that being the case, Williams’ co-host DMac surmised it may come down to one roster spot among the two.

“They both can do the other job. They can both be kick returners or punt returners,” DMac said.

Follow digital content producer Johnny Hart on Twitter: @JohnnyHart7.

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