Broncos’ Royce Freeman and Isaiah McKenzie make roster push in preseason opener


Royce Freeman and Isaiah McKenzie each arrived at Broncos Stadium with something to prove Saturday.

A rookie tailback fighting for a roster spot in a crowded position room. A second-year return man seeking a renewed reputation. And, despite an overall slow start against the Vikings in Denver’s preseason opener, both young players made their case for roster security — in the most explosive ways possible.

The Broncos’ first four drives were miserable: 11 plays, 20 yards, zero first downs, three punts and one Paxton Lynch interception. Then, facing third-and-short just outside the Vikings’ red zone after a Minnesota turnover, Freeman took a handoff off right tackle, shook safety Anthony Harris with a wiggle and sprinted down the sideline for the team’s first touchdown of the preseason.

Freeman, a 2018 third-round draft pick (No. 71 overall), completed the first half with a team-high four carries for 38 yards — a significant development considering Denver’s options. Devontae Booker’s first-team snaps showcase the Broncos’ trust in the third-year tailback. The Broncos also gave carries to De’Angelo Henderson, Phillip Lindsay and David Williams. Freeman’s larger workload as the game progressed, though, suggests Denver’s willingness to see if the rookie might supplant the rest by the regular season.

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