Al Wilson was released, Keith Burns retired and Rod Smith is out for the first six weeks on the physically unable to perform list. Denver's captains this year are center Tom Nalen, quarterback Jay Cutler, safety John Lynch and cornerback Champ Bailey.
Those players went to coach Mike Shanahan on Tuesday and requested that Smith be made again and Shanahan agreed with the unusual move. The special teams captain will be voted on each week and the first captain was kicker Jason Elam.
All but Lynch were first-time captains. One small surprise was Cutler, who had only five NFL starts before the season. But players and coaches have raved about how Cutler has stepped up as a leader in place of Jake Plummer, who was respected by teammates and was a team captain.
The Broncos players voted Cutler a captain.
"It gives you an idea what the team thinks of him," Shanahan said.
Lynch said he liked that the league has put more emphasis on formalizing the captain position and has given captains more responsibility.
"(NFL commissioner Roger Goodell) has been open with players and really pro-player and trying to shine a light on the positive things in the league," Lynch said. "Unfortunately there's been a lot of negative things. Maybe this is a chance to shine some light on the positives."
PLAYER NOTES --QB Jay Cutler will be a big part of the offense all year. He is inexperienced but the Broncos don't seem to mind. The Broncos have a workhorse tailback in Travis Henry, but Cutler still attempted 39 passes against Buffalo. With the Broncos' weapons at receiver, Cutler should easily pass for 3,000 yards.
--RB Travis Henry was used a lot on screen passes against Buffalo. Although Henry is a banger, he also has big-play ability. As long as he shows reliable hands out of the backfield, the Broncos will continue to involve him in the passing game.
--RB Selvin Young made his NFL debut against Buffalo. He had seven yards on two carries. He will be used sparingly because Travis Henry will get almost all of the work.
--WR Javon Walker said before Denver's first game that 1,500 or 1,600 yards is a realistic goal this season. He had 119 in the season opener. Walker looks fully recovered from a 2005 knee injury and quarterback Jay Cutler obviously has a lot of confidence in him. Cutler hit Walker for four big catches on Denver's final drive against Buffalo.
--WR Brandon Marshall had a few nice plays against Buffalo, but one of his best won't show up on the stat sheet. On a run his way, Marshall laid out linebacker Mario Haggan. Marshall is a big, strong receiver who has a lot of potential.
--WR Brandon Stokley could be the most productive third receiver in Mike Shanahan's time as Denver's coach. The Broncos have often preferred using two tight ends to three-receiver sets, but as long as Stokley is healthy he is a very tough matchup from the slot. He had 65 yards against Buffalo on a few long catches.
--TE Daniel Graham caught three passes for 24 yards. He should be a reliable short target for the Broncos all season.
--K Jason Elam hit the game-winning field goal against Buffalo, but two misses are a small concern right now. Elam missed only two field goals last year. Elam said he wasn't that upset about missing a long 50-yard attempt, but was disappointed that he was wide left on a 43-yard attempt in the fourth quarter.
--DT Sam Adams moved well in Denver's regular-season opener. The Broncos are limiting him in practice to keep him fresh and rest his knee, which he had minor surgery on this offseason.
--LB D.J. Williams had some shaky moments in the preseason as he moved from outside linebacker to middle linebacker, but played very well against the Bills. He led the team with nine tackles and added a sack.
--DE Jarvis Moss played a backup role in his NFL debut. The Broncos' first-round pick should play a big role in passing situations all season. Having either Elvis Dumervil or Simeon Rice at the other end position should limit the amount of double-team attention Moss gets this year.