As we prepare for the Denver Broncos 2022 regular season, I wanted to look at the roster to see if there are any players that might breakout this season. When I prepared my list of players, I feel like two are true ‘under-the-radar’ guys and the other three are more well-known and likely have expectations on them from the fans.
However, all three of those guys are either first-time starters or backups with high expectations. I think all could breakout in each of their situations, so I wanted to hit them up anyway.
Let’s get to it!
I feel like Washington is the fringiest of fringe in terms of being ‘under-the-radar’, but he is still a fifth-round rookie who has gotten a lot of hype during training camp. He is also behind a lot of other wide receivers in this position group. So for those reasons, I’m going to list him here out of the gate with the appropriate caveats.
For me, I am doubtful we’ll see him make huge impacts on offense as a rookie. I think his breakout in 2022 will occur with the special teams unit. He showed in the first preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys that he has a knack for finding the crease in the return game. He returned two punts, one for a big 27 yard return and the other for 18 yards.
Field position leads to points and if Washington produces in the return game that will ultimately lead to wins. I’m excited to see what he will do in the regular season.
Despite being behind both Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory in terms of who will be starting at the edge position, Browning looks like a guy who could explode onto the NFL scene in 2022. He’s probably not that ‘under-the-radar’ in Broncos Country either, but league-wide he is.
Believe it or not, Baron Browning just started playing EDGE. Looks like a natural. pic.twitter.com/87v3Q7KZ3r— The GOAT House (@GoatHouseNFL) August 14, 2022
I’m looking at his situation and thinking back to Shaquil Barret in 2015. In 2015, Barrett played in all 16 games and started in 6 as DeMarcus Ware was injured for a bit that season. He piled up 5.5 sacks and looked like a promising talent. Obviously he was, as he went on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as snagged 19.5 sacks in his first season with the team.
Browning will likely get a chance to play and even start. Neither Chubb nor Gregory has ever finished a full season since at least 2018. Chubb has started in just 25 games in the last three years, while Gregory has only started 12 but played in more games (36) over that span.
All this points towards significant playing time for Browning. The Broncos third-round pick last season where Vic Fangio moved him to inside linebacker where he started nine games as a rookie. The switch to outside linebacker to rush the quarterback was thought to require a bit of a transition, but Browning has impressed early and often.
During training camp, head coach Nathaniel Hackett had noted how well Browning was making the transition to edge.
“He’s been doing a great job and he’s taken it in stride,” Hackett said on August 3rd. That’s a credit to Baron [Browning] and the type of person he is to just go in [with his] head down and keep working to try to figure out a way to keep his game going and get better.”
In the first preseason game, Browning proved the hype was real as he was all over the place piling up four total tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss, a pass defense, and a QB hit. He sure seems like he’ll be a thing in games moving forward.
Okay, now that I’ve knocked out the the two guys I feel are barely under the radar at this point to some guys who are definitely flying under that radar.
As someone who has been doubtful of both Drew Lock and Noah Fant long before they were both traded to the Seattle Seahawks, the one player in that trade that I felt would hurt the Broncos immediately was the loss of Shelby Harris.
I think a guy we should be looking out for this season might be DeShawn Williams. I’m not saying he’ll replace Harris straight up, but I am thinking he might be a guy who fills a void along the defensive line and might actually be an underrated guy no one is talking about.
Interestingly, Harris and Williams have similar paths to starting defensive lineman in the NFL. Harris is two years older than Williams and bounced around the league quite a bit early in his career. He was drafted by the then Oakland Raiders and spent time with the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys before the Broncos signed him in 2017. He had a breakout season in his first year with Denver and the rest was history. Meanwhile, Williams also bounced around the league. Aside from three separate stints with the Broncos, he also spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts and even a while in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders.
His third stint with the Broncos proved fruitful as he spent two years as depth learning from veterans like the aforementioned Harris. Now its his turn. He didn’t play a single snap against the Cowboys last week, which is a good indication he is considered a starter. So look out!
Of all the wide receivers who produced in that first preseason game, it was rookie Brandon Johnson who caught my attention the most. With Tim Patrick out for the season, they needed someone to step up and hopefully someone who has the build to go up and get the football. At 6’3”, Johnson has the size to do exactly that.
He was already turning heads early on in training camp, but its hard to know if a guys practice hype is going to translate to games. I know it’s only been one game, but so far he looks like he can play in the NFL.
He was the driving force in the first half on several key drives. He didn’t get the touchdowns, but he made the plays to put the team in position to score.
.@Broncos Brandon Johnson; #89, from @UCF_Football is turning heads at camp and his NFL debut was a good one. Perhaps he can help fill the void if Patrick. #BroncosCountry #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/7J8UqJh4AF— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) August 14, 2022
Of the five players I have in this post, Johnson might be the one I’m most excited about. He has a real opportunity to have a breakout season as someone who can potentially play from Tim Patrick’s spot.
Locke went undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft and spent the first two seasons being waived as first the Pittsburgh Steelers and then the Denver Broncos trimmed their rosters down to the final 53. However, early on in the 2020 he was signed back onto the Broncos active roster and has remained there ever since.
The Broncos felt good enough about their safety group that they went ahead and waived their former fifth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jamar Johnson, earlier this week. Locke’s rise likely had a part in that decision-making process.
“He’s really worked at playing in the deep part of the field and playing the deep half and the deep middle,” Ejiro Evero said of Locke on Thursday. “He’s done a really good job, and he’s definitely a trusted agent now.”
He showed that in his first game action of the year too as he made a big time play on fourth down to keep the Cowboys drive from continuing.
With Caden Sterns and Locke back there behind Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson, the Broncos have quite a lot of depth at safety. They should afford them a lot of options for Evero as he calls the defenses during the season.
Oh and by the way, Locke had two more interceptions in practice yesterday too.
Is there anyone I left off the list or would you replace a name here? Let us know in the comments section below.
Of the 5 players mentioned, who has impressed you the most?
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