Linebacker Baron Browning was arguably George Paton’s biggest steal in the 2021 NFL Draft. After some questions about his fit in the NFL due to his usage in the Ohio State defense, Browning fell all the way to the end of the third round. Quite literally. He was picked 105th, the last pick in the round.
The plan was to build him along slowly and let him develop behind linebackers Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell. When both Johnson and Jewell got hurt and were out for the season, the rookie was pushed out onto the field rather quickly as the MLB. And he responded very well, showing all the traits of being an excellent off-ball linebacker.
Now in 2022, he’s moving away from that position to be the backup EDGE rusher. Yeah, I know.
#56 Baron Browning
Weight: 240 lbs
Experience: 2 years
College: Ohio State
How he fits with the Broncos in 2022
Browning is moving over from linebacker to play EDGE, where he’ll go from superb starter to backup/rotational. It’s an odd move, given Browning was the best linebacker to take the field for the team last season, and moving him to a pass-rusher role diminishes his ability and playing time. Still, there’s potential for him to excel in this role, as he has all the tools to succeed in getting to the passer.
With the number of injuries in the EDGE room and the injury risks there, it’s understandable the Broncos wouldn’t like to rely on Jonathon Cooper and Malik Reed for large stretches like they had to last season. Moving and letting Browning learn there makes sense in the event of an emergency and lets them be creative in moving him around upfront. That only matters, of course, if he takes snaps elsewhere, which is still to be determined.
Browning took over with the “green dot” in Fangio’s defense, and it’s not a surprise that the defense almost instantly improved when he did so. Their worst game up front came against the Eagles when Browning got hurt. Now he’ll revert into a rotational role outside as the likely EDGE4 behind Randy Gregory, Bradley Chubb, and Nik Bonitto. A weird move to say the least.
Browning has all the talent in the world to thrive as an NFL starter. We saw it as a rookie. Now moving positions and training elsewhere feels like a waste of his talent, especially given how thin the linebacker room is. We’ll see how the move works out, and it could be a big payoff if Ejiro Evero gets creative and takes advantage of his athleticism. Browning should be a building block on this Broncos’ defense for years to come.