For openers, the Denver defense had a difficult time getting some its best guys to the starting line.

Shane Ray, the starting outside linebacker opposite Von Miller, has long been ruled out as he was placed on injured reserve (he is expected to return for game 7 at Kansas City). And now starting defensive end Jared Crick (back) and top backup defensive lineman Zach Kerr (knee) are out for the Broncos’ season-opening game Monday night against Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and the Los Angeles Chargers.

Adam Gotsis and Shelby Harris, you’re up. Gotsis figures to start in Crick’s place at defensive end with Harris playing in passing situations.

“When you watch the San Fran game and the Green Bay game those guys played well,’’ Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said about preseason games No. 2 and 3. “That’s what I expect on Monday night, that’s why they’re here. Gotsis is a second-round pick. He’s a guy with a bright future and Shelby Harris had a hell of a camp. What they did in preseason I expect them to do on Monday Night. That’s why they’re here.”

With backup nosetackle Kyle Peko also just coming back from a broken foot injury, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Broncos called up rookie defensive tackle Tyrique Jarrett from the practice squad by 2 p.m. Sunday. (The Broncos later waived Peko on Saturday, clearing a roster spot. It wouldn't be a surprise if Jarrett and Peko switch places with Peko winding up on the practice squad).

Jarrett is a 335-pound, undrafted space eater from Pitt. Promoting Jarrett to the 53-man roster, though, would mean someone would have to get cut.

“That’s always an issue when you bring someone up, you have to expose someone else to the outside teams in the league,’’ Joseph said. “That’s always a possibility.”

The chronology of Crick’s injury and recovery may not be as serious as it appears. He was carted off the field Aug. 14 with a back injury. After rehabbing for three weeks, he returned for three practices this week, but then was backed off Friday and Saturday.

“I think Jared is getting better, but he’s not well enough to play a football game right now,’’ Joseph said. “In our opinion, if we put him out there this week, which we could probably, it would hurt us moving down the road. As a group discussion, we thought resting him this week would help us down the road with Jared Crick.”

McKenzie moves grandma from Irma danger

Broncos rookie returner/receiver Isaiah McKenzie grew up never knowing his mom or dad. He was raised in Miami by his grandmother.

“It was rough at times, not having a mother or father,’’ McKenzie said in an interview with 9News. “But it’s not like they came in my life and then left. They were never there. So, it wasn’t that hard to deal with. My grandmother always had my back. Me and my six other siblings – there were seven of us altogether and we lived in a one-bedroom apartment and she helped us the best way she could.’’

Miami had been in Hurricane Irma’s path until it recently shifted to Tampa.

McKenzie didn’t wait. Joseph said his rookie flew his grandmother to Denver on Thursday.

New practice schedule

Joseph has brought a unique practice schedule to Denver in that he does his walkthrough two days before the game – Saturday in this week’s case – followed by a full-speed, if shorter than usual, practice the day before the game.

Recent Broncos head coaches Gary Kubiak and John Fox went the other way with the walkthrough the day before the game. Joseph said he picked up the schedule from Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis in 2015.

“The reason you do it is that you want two recovery days versus one,’’ Joseph said. “(For a typical Sunday game) we do more work on Wednesday and Thursday and take Friday as a mental practice and a recovery day for the players. It’s not a loss when you’re talking about football, because the offense got 85 reps today. That’s a practice and a half for us. Defensively, we got 65 reps. We’re not losing our game-plan knowledge, but we’re gaining in my opinion, a day of recovery for our players.

“It’s a long season so we want to make a point to start recovery now and not start it Week 10 in the middle of the season. That’s the point behind the schedule.”

Broncos Bits

McKenzie will be the Broncos’ punt returner Monday while Cody Latimer will handle kickoff returns. …

With the late start Monday (8:20 p.m. kickoff, Channel 20), Joseph altered the pregame preparation so that one meal would be served at 1 p.m. at the team hotel and another at 5 p.m. at the stadium.