ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For their big game against Joe Burrow and the high-powered Cincinnati Bengals, the Broncos figure to be without three key defensive starters.
The most significant loss is defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, who is officially listed as “doubtful” with a foot injury.
Jones is coming off the best game of his career as he had 2.0 sacks in a 38-10 win against the Detroit Lions last week, another tackle for loss and a fourth-and-short pass deflection.
Jones leads the Denver defense with 5.5 sacks. Second on the team with 5.0 sacks is outside linebacker Malik Reed, who remains in COVID-19 protocols after testing positive last Saturday.
Reed missed the game against the Lions, and while the league has eased the return guidelines for players who test positive, it doesn’t appear likely he will be cleared in time to play against the Bengals.
The Broncos are also not expected to have starting inside linebacker Kenny Young, who needs another day or two to be cleared from concussion protocol.
The Broncos are expected to give special teams standout Jonas Griffith his first NFL start at inside linebacker against the Bengals.
DeShawn Williams is the most likely replacement for Jones as the starting defensive lineman, and Reed was replaced last week by rookie Jonathon Cooper.
The Bengals rank No. 8 in scoring with 27.2 points a game. The Broncos and Bengals each bring 7-6 records into the game that has them in a five-way tie for the final two AFC wild-card playoff spots.
Rypien semi-isolated in emergency
As the COVID-19 omicron variant spreads from Los Angeles to Cleveland to Washington, the Broncos have taken the preventative step of having No. 3 quarterback Brett Rypien stay away from team headquarters except for practice. Rypien participates in meetings virtually.
“And when he was out here on the field, he was under strict orders to not be near anybody,’’ said Broncos head coach Vic Fangio.
The Broncos infamously played a game against New Orleans last year without any of their four quarterbacks -- No. 3 QB Jeff Driskel tested positive and the other three (starter Drew Lock, Rypien and practice squad QB Blake Bortles) were all disqualified as close contacts.
The Broncos' top two quarterbacks this season have been Teddy Bridgewater and Lock. Lock already tested positive earlier this season and missed two games.
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