Isaiah McKenzie had been benched long enough. Or so his coach thought.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph returned McKenzie, a rookie fifth-round pick, to the role of punt returner Sunday after sitting him the previous two games because of his inability to field punts cleanly.
“You want to try to find a way to give a team a spark,” Joseph said. “With the ball in his hand, he’s a special returner. He’s had trouble catching the ball and taking care of the ball. I thought two weeks would help him overcome that. That wasn’t so. He needs more time.”
McKenzie’s latest mistake came midway through the fourth quarter Sunday, with the Broncos already trailing 33-9. He fielded the ball at the 3-yard line. That’s generally on a don’t-do-that list for a punt returner, but McKenzie said he was trying to make a play after calling for a fair catch on three previous chances. But as he ran to his right along the goal line, he left the ball in right arm, facing a wave of oncoming Dolphins. Miami linebacker Chase Allen knocked the ball loose, and McKenzie was forced to dive on the ball and absorb a safety.
It was the third time this season a fumbled punt by McKenzie turned directly into a score for an opponent.
“For me, it’s better decision-making and doing the little things right,” McKenzie said. “I’m a small guy. Anything can happen. I’ve got to be better with details.”
McKenzie found out he would be facing more time on the bench when reporters Monday began questioning Jordan Taylor about his impending return to the role of punt returner against the Jets on Sunday, a position he filled during the previous two games the rookie was benched.
“I can be better,” McKenzie said. “I have to cut off all the mistakes. It is what it is.”
IR possible for Wolfe. Defensive end Derek Wolfe, who missed Sunday’s game due to a neck injury, could be headed to season-ending injured reserve, Joseph said Monday.
Wolfe has been dealing with the issue for much of the season, and he was knocked out of the game against Oakland on Nov. 26 during the first series. During the previous game against the Bengals, Wolfe said his right arm went numb on the first play of the game, but he returned to action in that contest.
“Derek Wolfe is still being evaluated,” Joseph said. “We’re exploring every option with him, including IR. So we’ll see with him as far as how that will turn out.”
In other injury news, Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch will miss his second straight game with an ankle injury. Nose tackle Domata Peko (knee) and offensive guard Ron Leary (back), both of whom missed Sunday’s game, are listed as day-to-day.
Talib returns. Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib was back at the team facility Monday after serving a one-game suspension for his role in a fight with Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree during the game in Oakland.
Joseph credited Bradley Roby with a strong performance in Talib’s absence Sunday. Roby He was targeted nine times and allowed three receptions for 53 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. Roby also had two passes defensed and broke up another pass with a hit on a wide receiver.